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Your Genes Make You a Dog Person

June 7th, 2019

Dog portrait Viszla

We've all heard it said that some people are dog people and some are cat people.

Over the years, scientists have explained this as arising from personality differences and the influence of the pets we grew up with. Now, researchers have found there's a genetic link to dog ownership.

A study of 35,000 twin pairs has found a "strong genetic contribution to dog ownership in adulthood." Reported last month in Nature, the study found genes explain at least half the likelihood someone will have a dog.

“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," says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

The team of Swedish and British researchers compared the genetic makeup of 35,035 pairs of twins with dog ownership. When they compared the results of ownership by identical to non-identical twins they found the rates much higher among the identical twins.

“These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership," says Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

"The next obvious step," he adds, "Is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy.”

Image by Péter Göblyös from Pixabay

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