Dog behaviour

Dog breeds are the result of careful selection for desired characteristics including behavior, making the domestic dog a promising model for identifying the genes and variants underlying behavioral traits. In Sweden, one of the standardized tests used to evaluate canine behavior is the Dog Mentality Assessment (DMA) that quantifies and combines individual and aggregated personality traits (aggressiveness, chase proneness, curiosity/fearlessness, playfulness and sociability) based on a number of subtests scoring 33 behavioral variables. The DMA was originally developed to assist in the breeding of working dogs, but since its introduction in 1989, has become widely used for privately owned dogs from working and non-working breeds alike. As a result, it is possible to perform genome-wide association studies for a large number of dogs from different breeds for which DMA results are known and blood samples have already been obtained. We are currently conducting such analyses for well-defined populations of dogs from several breeds including German shepherds, Rottweilers, rough collies, flat-coated retrievers and boxers.  By understanding the genetic variation associated with a particular behavioral trait in a given breed, we hope to identify markers that could be used for selection and to gain further insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying canine behavior.