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Behavior Science Blog

My webinar notes are written out and sketched on my ipad Pro using the notability app. I welcome feedback, questions, discussion, corrections. Some of these notes may be reworked into infographics in the future.


Dog genomics studies: genetics and breed stereotypes

Here was my attempt to make sense of two science papers that were published recently. Please note that genetics and statistics are foreign languages to me. I think I understood only about 5% of the first paper and maybe 50% of the second paper. I welcome discussions and corrections.

Also adding notes from two podcast episodes related to the 2nd (Morrill) paper

Firstly, the paper by Serpell, Ostrander, Dutrov on the 10 genetic dog lineages and how they correlate with what dogs were historically bred for (the categories came from the FCI).

There was an earlier paper by Dr Ostrander (2017) about 23 dog clades and how this let scientists track disease migration between different dog breeds that share the same ancestry. I think that study used "breeds" and groupings as defined by the AKC whereas this study covers more dogs and refers to the FCI groupings. I am a little confused though as to how 23 clades got replaced by 10 genetic lineages.

The following paper by Morrill and co (2022) triggered some confusion this year as many people took it to mean that "breed does not predict any behavior" or that "there are no behavioral differences between breeds".

What I am taking away from this study is that SOME behaviors are heritable but many are not. And many modern dog breeds/mutts come from lines bred for aesthetics so it is more accurate to use genomic data than "breed" data.

I remember the MuttMix project from 2018 ( I really suck as guessing breeds in mutts, but they are not supposed to be easy to guess!) I love that this was a way to get around (kennel club) breed stereotypes and biases in analyzing the data.

I am a fan of the Pet Harmony: Enrichment for the Real World podcast series, though now that I don't have a dog, I am listening only to the content that is less "personal" (less likely to trigger grief).

Like this interview with Dr Jessica Hekman on the subject of dog breeds and "Breed typical enrichment". Apologies for my terrible handwriting.

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Albert Dexter
Albert Dexter
31 oct 2023
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