Why are dogs so friendly? The answer may be in 2 genes

  • Why are dogs so friendly? The answer may be in 2 genes

Why are dogs so friendly? The answer may be in 2 genes

For anyone who has ever wondered what makes dogs so friendly and lovable, a group of scientists from Oregon State University and Princeton may have discovered the answer. They found variations in two genes -GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 -"appeared to be connected to dog hyper sociability". Similar genes are present in humans with Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) - a disorder that makes them extremely social, but impairs critical thinking. Our loyal, slobbering pets rescue those in need and are extremely social, but until Wednesday, we never figured out why dogs and humans get along so well.

"We're not saying we have found the mutation that controls sociability", vonHoldt says. The dogs were more likely to look at the person instead of trying to open the box. "Probably, these two species, namely human and dogs, use the same genes for these social behaviors".

Why are dogs our best friends? "Almost every dog and wolf we sequenced had a different change", VonHoldt says.

VonHoldt's team also looked for the same hypersociability gene variants in a larger sample of dogs, non-domesticated wolves and coyotes.

Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago, and over this period, certain genes that make them friendly to humans were selected for the study.

Abstract: Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the genetic basis of morphologic traits (for example, body size and coat color) in dogs and wolves, the genetic basis of their behavioral divergence is poorly understood. They were eventually tamed over time, and became the dogs they are known as today, in different breeds.

Dogs evolved from wolves between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, beginning when wolves which were tolerant of people entered hunter camps to eat food scraps. What is most astounding about this story is that the dog had never been to the graveyard before and the dog actually found the correct gravestone with no assistance from humans.

In an earlier study, vonHoldt identified a gene that's mutated more often in dogs than wolves - possibly because of domestication. After sequencing a portion of their genes and comparing their behaviors, scientists turned up a few interesting findings. The wolves clobbered the dogs in both trials, and could stay focused even when a human was nearby.

There's also the question of environment in the domestication of dogs. They performed genetic sequencing of a 5 megabase length on the chromosome number 6 of the dogs.

However, there are still external factors that can shape a dog's personality and interaction with humans, such as whether or not they were raised in a loving or abusive home. "The research provides evidence that there exist certain evolutionary conservative mechanisms that contribute to sociability across species", she said. This may have given dogs their distinctive personalities, including human company craving.