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The Genetic Case for Dog Ownership

The Genetic Case for Dog Ownership

dog ownership and more

Here at the DFC ranch, we don’t have to come up with excuses that dogs make office and home life better: we have reasons  a pair of them. The dogs get us away from our desks when our eyes and backs need a break, and inject much-needed levity into our workdays. (The fact that Jill can open doors, and is vocal enough to interrupt any conversation she dang well pleases — her foundation stock includes malamute, god help us — is hilarious.)
 
Beyond these immediate, quality-of-life-improvement reasons, we haven’t given much thought to the underlying impulse toward dog ownership. But the people at Uppsala University have: and by using data from the famed Swedish Twin Registry, they’ve uncovered the startling results that being a “dog person” can be predetermined by your genes.
 
The team focused on 85,542 individuals in monozygotic and dizygotic (that is, identical and fraternal) twin pairs, who were born between 1926 and 1996, and who were both still alive. They compared the collected data on the twins with stats on dog ownership between 2001 and 2016, as registered with the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Kennel Club.
 
“Studying twins is a well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on our biology and behaviour. Because identical twins share their entire genome, and non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog. The researchers found concordance rates of dog ownership to be much larger in identical twins than in non-identical ones — supporting the view that genetics indeed plays a major role in the choice of owning a dog.”
 
The complicated modeling the team undertook is all in their study, published in full here. But, all in all, it shows that heritability of dog ownership runs at 57% for females and 51% in males (in Sweden). This tendency could also help explain why dogs were domesticated so early in our history — and how their own genomes morphed to make living with us more viable. I knew Jill and Samson’s hold on us was stronger than they were letting on!