Dog Behavior Genetics – First Test Results 

By  Editorial Team

Dog Behavior Genetics
Dog Behavior Genetics

Dog Behavior Genetics – First Test Results

The first validated canine behavioral genetics findings of nine fear and aggression traits in dogs was just released by the Nationwide Childrens Hospital.  The results from these studies can help us understand a genetic basis for aggression in dogs and in people towards people and dogs that they are familiar with. This is compared to people or dogs that are strangers to them.  There are multiple genes  in two different regions involved in the reactions that were studied.  These studies can help with anxiety disorders in both people and dogs in the future.

“Recently published in BMC Genetics, a study led by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital reports that genetic predisposition to aggression toward an owner or a familiar dog is distinct from that for fear and aggression directed at unfamiliar humans and dogs. The researchers identified approximately 12 genes associated with these traits.

“Our strongest focus is on specific genes related to aggression toward unfamiliar humans and dogs, which are associated with highly relevant genes at two genome regions,” said Carlos Alvarez, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Molecular and Human Genetics in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Those genes are consistent with the core fear and aggression neural pathway known as the amygdala to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.”

Genetic Dog Tests Show Aggression – Why is that important?

The findings not only relate to the most important dog behavioral problems but are also likely to be highly relevant to human anxiety disorders, according to Dr. Alvarez.

While the most immediate implications are for veterinary behavioral medicine — genetic testing for risk of specific types of fear and aggression, the long term implications for adults and children with anxiety disorders are encouraging.

Because these risk variants are common across dog breeds, the canine veterinary setting provides an ideal testbed for new therapies targeting those biochemical pathways. Once it is determined which neuronal circuits are affected by the risk variation, this will likely reveal drug targets that could be inhibited or activated to increase or decrease the emotional behavioral effects. Those findings can immediately be tested in pet dog patients under owner consent. And, if those therapies are effective in dogs, they can then be applied to humans with similar conditions.”

The studies were led by Dr. Isain Zapata in Dr. Alvarez’s Lab in the Center for Molecular and Human Genetics in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.  To read the entire article, click here.

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