Dogs & Genetics

The relationship between genetics and behavior in dogs

Playing together. Woman is with two golden retriever dogs at home
Me and Mou my beloved dog

Published in:

Black Woman with Pet Dog in Modern Home

Ancestry-inclusive dog genomics challenges popular breed stereotypes

A 2022 study challenges common assumptions about dog breeds. Combining owner surveys with genetic testing, researchers made paradigm-shifting discoveries about the relationship between canine genetics and behavior.

dogs participated (49% were purebred). Each dogs owner was surveyed.
of the 18,385 dogs had their DNA sequenced
of the identified behaviors were correlated with breed -- a small amount
or no correlation could be established between breed and "agonistic behavior” (a term often mislabeled “dog aggression")
of the mixed breed dogs had American Pit Bull Terrier in their ancestry, making this the most common ancestry among the mixed breed dogs in the survey

At a Glance

A groundbreaking study on dogs has challenged traditional understanding of the link between genetics and behavior. The results on the left have significant implications.


An individual dog’s breed is not a reliable indicator of behavior.


This study found no correlation between pet dog genetics and threatening or biting behavior


Most non-purebred (mixed breed) dogs in the study had more than four different breeds among their ancestors, thereby making it impossible to visually identify ancestry. Research shows that visual identification of a dog’s “breed” is often widely off-target.

These results challenge the common stereotypes associated with specific breeds with significant implications:


Dogs should be assessed as individuals on their individual behaviors  rather than on breed.


Public policy should recognize that dog breed has limited influence on dog behavior.

Funny posh dog wearing blonde wig and sunglasses

“Dogs are individuals. What a dog looks like is not really going to tell you what the dog acts like.”

Marjie Alonso

a study author and executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants