Friday, November 07, 2008

Domestication of the Dog is Still a Work in Progress

The domestication of dogs has been going on for thousands of years and has presented humanity with an array of recognized dog breed types. Throughout history with each new breed there was a job for it to do and a breed typical behavior to go with it. Labrador’s retrieved, border collies herded livestock, german shepherds made good guard dogs, and dachshunds flushed badgers from their dens. Each breed had the drive to do the job it was expected to do and had an attitude and confidence to go with it. Overtime different aspects of dog breeds behaviors have been changed and have been more selected for being a good candidate for a show dog or for making a good family pet.

In a study done by Kenth Svartberg a more in depth look is given to this phenomenon in dogs. The study used 31 different dog breeds from five groups including herding, working, terriers, hounds, and gun dogs and looked at their characteristic behavior. Scores were given in four behavior categories including sociability (how happy individual dogs acted towards strangers), playfulness (low to high interest), curiosity/ fearfulness (a dogs tendency to explore), and aggressiveness (how aggressively individual dogs acted towards unfamiliar situations). The study found that the more popular a breed was the more positive of a correlation there was in its score for playfulness and sociability. Labradors scored the highest in curiosity and fearlessness and border collies scored the lowest. There was no positive correlation present in these situations for curiosity, fearlessness, or aggressiveness. The study concluded that there has been some change in breed typical behavior due to recent breeding selection and that a breed’s origin is less of a factor in determining its personality.

Having had the opportunity to personally be exposed to many different dog breeds I can see the correlation between breed popularity and a higher degree of sociability and playfulness a result of having a greater opportunity to breed in these desirable pet quality traits. Labrador retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds which is probably due to their goofy lovable nature. Border collies on the other hand have a tendency of being very intense with a very high energy level and drive to work making them sought after to still do the herding jobs that they have always been bred to do. Although there are always exceptions and when considering any dog breed it is extremely important to do your research first to make sure you are getting a breed that will fit your lifestyle and activity level.

The article can be found here.

Posted by: Lindsay Goodyear (week 8)


At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the popularity of different breeds of dogs have been the same or has changed with the times to make one type of dog more popular than another. And what it is about dogs that makes them able to be domesticated whereas you can have a cat as a pet but really can't teach it new tricks persay. That would be interesting to look into

Amanda Joyce

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly was the study looking for? Were they looking for a correlation between certain behaviors? Or an upward trend in the prevalence of certain behaviors that make a dog more appealing as a pet? It would be interesting to see if dog behavior is controlled more by nature or by how he or she is raised.

Amy Kawazoe

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see where the more popular breeds are more social and playful. Has the selective breeding affected other animals social behaviors and made them more playful in comparison to their ancestors?

Duy Nguyen

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe location also plays a role when deciding to own a pet. Here in the Northeast there tend to be more dogs of smaller breeds while as you go south the dogs become bigger and that's true for the midwest as well. In the midwest the dogs are large, but as you get closer to California the preferred breeds become smaller. Why do you think that is?
-Sasha Rogers

At 8:03 PM, Blogger PWH said...

My family has actually been thinking about getting a dog and so this was a popular article for me indeed. Also exploring my options in breed, I have realized that each breed seems to come with its own set of characteristics (like how you said the Labradors ranked among the friendliest. I was wondering how artificial selection could affect the characteristics that come with each breed. If we choose more sociable breeds, will that affect the sociability of those breeds of dogs that ranked the lowest?

-Helen Thi

At 8:21 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I'm assuming that all the dogs in the study were pure bred. Is this correct? Were there any measures taken in looking at the dogs pedigree at all, to ensure they were pure Labs, Collies, etc? I can certainly understand the reason for a demand for high sociability and playfulness. Is the study intended to show us that ALL type of breeds are being bred for higher sociability and playfulness? Do you think anyone would be interested in a mutt that could be bred to maximize those traits? I find from personal experience that purebred dogs are very overrated and many have a lot of health problems from being so closely bred. If the study does involve only purebred dogs, then I would like to know why purebred dogs would be preferred to mutts. Just thinking out loud. Thank you for your post.

-Amanda Sceusa

At 9:11 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I found this an interesting article because I have had the experience and see the behavior of a border collie. When I was young, my father used to have a small farm with ducks, geese, cows, etc..., and we also had a border collie. The collie was never trained to herd anything in its life, and we knew this because we had owned her since she was a puppy. The collie, though, would always seem to try to heard the geese when the geese were let out of the pen. We never needed to worry about the geese straying too far from the barn area. I was wondering though. Splendid article.

-Kiel Boutelle

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. I wonder exactly what kind of test they did to score each dog in each category. Also, I find it no surprise that the more popular dogs are more playful and social. I feel like if there is an dog who is not playful and sociable then there isn't as a good of a chance of people wanting to breed with it.

Alex Pavidapha

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so cool, being an dog lover, I like to know things like these. So I had 2 labs before and they were so wonderful (I know why they are so popular). Being curious though, I noticed that they tend to wander...a lot! Do you think that things like this are mentioned in articles when comparing things like you mentioned? Also, I think the choice for what dog you want also comes down to where you are from (like woods, farm, city, etc), if you have children, etc. When we decided on dogs, it took a lot of thinking as to what one would fit into the house better. Really good find! And PS- that is a very very in-depth article! Good find!

-Alyson Paige

At 12:02 AM, Blogger PWH said...

interesting article, it makes sense that dogs that are more lovable are more desirable. I am curious though if any kind of hybrid breeds were sudied, such as a lab/german shepard mix? I know that the majority of people that I know have mutts, most of them are the above mix, so I am curious how mixing certain breeds affects their socres when tested in those areas stated.

-Joe Alonzo

At 1:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The correlation between popularity and playfulness/friendliness seems to make sense. What I am curious about is why there is no correlation for aggressiveness. It seems there should be some correlation, either negative for guard dogs or positive for general pets.

Alex Jackson

At 4:14 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Interesting never thought that there was this much difference in breeds of dogs. Also it will make me think next time I get a dog that I need to pick a dog that fits my personality.

Charles Scondras

At 10:00 PM, Blogger PWH said...

In response to Amanda Sceusca: Yes the dogs that were used in the study were pure bred. The study did not look at all breeds but instead selected a few from the different categories (ie: terriers, working group etc.) The study was to show how breeds were originally bred to do certain "jobs" but overtime their job has turned usually into companionship and how breeds have been changed towards a more acceptable mold to fit this. I also completely agree with you that pure bred dogs are extremely overated I have a labrador rescue that is greatest and none of my dogs will ever come from anywhere but rescue.

In response to Alex Pavidapha:
The tests that were used to decide the score of each dog used strangers to help run a series of tests. For example these included playing tug of war with the dog to rank its playfullness and to also approach the dog and its owner to see if the dog acted fearful or aggressive. One would also think that if a dog was not friendly someone would not want to breed it but you would be suprised at what some people will do to make money. Purebred dogs go for a lot of money.

In response to Alyson Paige: I also have a labrador and she tends to wander and turn on her selective hearing sometimes. I think it has to do with a labs drive to find something to eat honestly they are a very curious breed too.

In response to Amy Kawazoe: The study was showing how dog breeds personalities and breed typical behaviors have been changed overtime and are still changing. It was also showing the correlation between breed popularity and the positive correlation towards friendliness and away from agressiveness among some of the traits tested. The domestication of the dog dates back thousands of years and still continues on.

In response to Helen Thi: For dogs I believe there will always be some part of it's personality that will stay with it, for instance terriers will probably always have a least a hint of bossiness in their little bodies and not want any help exploring the world themselves. These are the traits that the breeds have that people fall in love with though too. With artificial selection breeders would have to take their adult dogs and decide which ones had the traits that were most appealing and breed them while not breeding dogs with less desireable traits. Good luck finding your new dog and certainly do your research. Not only look into making sure a breeds energy level fits your lifestyle but also keep in mind how much grooming is involved and any prominent health problems in each breed. It pays to do your homework and try looking into rescuces as well they have one for virtually every breed and you can get a purebred dog for a lot less money!

Posted By: Lindsay Goodyear


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