A team of Swedish and British scientists has studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The new study shows that genetic variation explains more than half the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice of raising dogs is strongly influenced by the genetic makeup of individuals.

Dogs are the first pets and have had close relationships with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are common pets in our society and are considered to increase the welfare and health of their owners. The team compared the genetic makeup of the twins (using the Swedish Twin Registry – the largest of its kind in the world) with dog ownership. The results were published for the first time in Scientific Reports. The aim is to determine whether dog ownership has a component that can be inherited.

“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic makeup seems to have a significant influence on whether they have dogs. Thus, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding the interactions between humans and dogs throughout history and in modern times. other pets are members of ordinary households throughout the world, little is known about how they affect our daily lives and health. Maybe some people have a higher innate tendency to care for pets than others. “said Tove Fall, lead author this study, and Professor of Molecular Epidemiology in the Department of Medical Sciences and Laboratory of Science for Life, Uppsala University.

Carri Westgarth, Lecturer in Human-Animal interactions at the University of Liverpool and co-author of the study, added: “These findings are important because they suggest the health benefits of having a dog reported in several studies might be partly explained by the various genetics of people being studied.”

Studying twins is a well-known method for breaking down environmental influences and genes in our biology and behavior. Because identical twins share the entire genome, and non-identical twins on average only share half of the genetic variation, a comparison of the suitability of pairs of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in having a dog. The researchers found the level of suitability of dog ownership was far greater in identical twins than for non-identical ones – supporting the view that genetics did play a major role in the choice of having a dog.

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“Twin studies like this cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least show for the first time that genetics and the environment play a similar role in determining dog ownership. The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this. and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergies, “said Patrik Magnusson, senior study author and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institute, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

“This study has big implications for understanding the history of deep and enigmatic dog domestication,” said zooarchaeologist and study co-author Keith Dobney, Chair of Human Palaeoecology in the Department of Archeology, Classics and Messirology at the University of Liverpool. “Decades of archaeological research have helped us build a better picture of where and when dogs entered the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data now allow us to directly explore why and how?”

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