The genetic contribution to canine personality

Genes Brain Behav. 2006 Apr;5(3):240-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2005.00155.x.


The domestic dog may be exceptionally well suited for behavioral genetic studies owing to its population history and the striking behavior differences among breeds. To explore to what extent and how behavioral traits are transmitted between generations, heritabilities and genetic correlations for behavioral traits were estimated in a cohort containing over 10,000 behaviorally tested German shepherd and Rottweiler dogs. In both breeds, the pattern of co-inheritance was found to be similar for the 16 examined behavioral traits. Furthermore, over 50% of the additive genetic variation of the behavioral traits could be explained by one underlying principal component, indicating a shared genetic component behind most of the examined behavioral traits. Only aggression appears to be inherited independently of the other traits. The results support a genetic basis for a broad personality trait previously named shyness-boldness dimension, and heritability was estimated to be 0.25 in the two breeds. Therefore, breeds of dogs appear to constitute a valuable resource for behavioral genetic research on the normal behavioral differences in broad personality traits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dogs / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Pedigree
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Reference Standards
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Temperament