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WHY ARE DOGS SO FRIENDLY?

Many studies have studied the behavior of dogs and their connections to people but not all attempt to explain the genetic basis for this behavior.

A new study published on July 19 in the online journal Science Advances suggests that it has located one genetic marker that reveals hypersociability in dogs. Using the genetic markers in people who have Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS), a genetic disorder that makes

? people? friendly and trusting, researchers found the same marker in dogs showing that they had variations in the same kinds of genes that wolves did not possess.

Researchers noted that dogs continue to display hypersociability into adulthood and set them apart from wolves, even wolves who have been hand-raised by people. The study described hypersociability as “a multifaceted phenotype that includes extended proximity seeking and gaze, heightened oxytocin levels, and inhibition of independent problem-solving behavior in the presence of humans.”

Overall, dogs spent a greater amount of time gazing at humans and sought proximity to people more than wolves did. By developing an idea of the sociability of the dogs and wolves, researchers could then determine whether the genetic findings had any relation to their behavior.

As a result, the study proposes that one aspect of domestication is that individuals with hypersocial tendencies were favored under selective breeding leading to adult dogs that show exaggerated motivation to seek social contact unlike adult wolves.


David A. Gordon, DVM
Oceanside Veterinary Hospital
Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital

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