A study on the heritability of dog ownership has found a person’s genetic makeup strongly impacts whether they choose to get a dog. This is according to a team of Swedish and British scientists who used information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry as the basis of their study. Researchers compared the genetic makeup of twins with dog ownership.
“We were surprised to see a person’s genetic makeup appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog,” says the study’s lead author, Tove Fall, professor in molecular epidemiology at the department of medical sciences and the science for life laboratory, Uppsala University.
“As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.”
Using twins is a known method to separate the influences of environment and genes on a person’s biology and behaviour. As identical twins share their entire genome and non-identical twins usually share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of the Swedish Twin Registry and dog ownership can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog. Researchers found rates of dog ownership to be higher in identical twins than in non-identical ones.
“These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrates for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership,” says senior author of the study, Patrik Magnusson, associate professor in epidemiology at the department of medical epidemiology and biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet, 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.”