Genetics and behavior: a guide for practitioners

Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2014 May;44(3):483-505. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2014.01.006.


Phenotyping behavior is difficult, partly because behavior is almost always influenced by environment. Using objective terms/criteria to evaluate behaviors is best; the more objective the assessment, the more likely underlying genetic patterns will be identified. Behavioral pathologies, and highly desirable behavioral characteristics/traits, are likely complex, meaning that multiple genes are probably involved, and therefore simple genetic tests are less possible. Breeds can be improved using traditional quantitative genetic methods; unfortunately, this also creates the possibility of inadvertently selecting for covarying undesirable behaviors. Patterns of behaviors within families and breed lines are still the best guidelines for genetic counseling in dogs.

Keywords: Behavioral genetics; Canine; Cat behavior; Dog behavior; Feline; Personality; Temperament.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Breeding
  • Dogs / genetics*
  • Dogs / physiology
  • Genotype
  • Veterinarians*