You’re either a dog person or a cat person at heart – and a new study shows that being a dog person is hard-wired in your genes.
To determine the aspects of dog ownership that could be attributed to inherited genetic factors, researchers from Sweden and Great Britain used data from 35,035 pairs of twins from the Swedish Twin Registry.
Not only did researchers discover that a person’s genes are a major factor in whether or not they own a dog, but they also hinted that some people may be better at taking care of pets than others.
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“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times… Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others,” said Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and a professor at Uppsala University, in a release.
Twins were studied because it is a “well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on our biology and behavior,” according to the release. Biologically, identical twins share the entire genome, and non-identical twins share only half the genetic variation. Researchers discovered dog ownership to be much higher in identical twins than in non-identical twins – which supported the theory that genetics play a role in choosing to own a pup.
The exact genes that make this determination are unknown as of right now, researchers say, but the study does show that genetics and environment play equal roles in determining dog ownership, said Patrik Magnusson, study author and associate professor Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.
“The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy,” Magnusson added.
The findings are also meaningful for understanding the 15,000-year-old history of dog domestication.
Said zooarchaeologist and author Keith Dobney of the University of Liverpool, “Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when dogs entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how.”
The study was published in Scientific Reports.
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