Owning a Dog is in Your Genes: New Twin Study

Own a dog? Its in your genes say the researchers of a new twin study.  The research examined how people’s genetics may influence decisions to share their lives with dogs.  The results indicate that the choice of getting a dog is heavily influenced by an individual’s genetic make-up.  hmm.

Study overview

The research team compared the genetic make-up of twins (using the Swedish Twin Registry — the largest of its kind in the world) with dog ownership…The goal was to determine whether dog ownership has a heritable component…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.

“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog…Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.”

-Tove Fall, lead author of the study, Professor in Molecular Epidemiology, Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

Unintended implications of study results

“These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied.”

-Carri Westgarth, study co-author, Lecturer in Human-Animal interaction, University of Liverpool

–» Afterthought: Perhaps in the future people will need to submit results of genetic testing before being permitted to adopt a dog?



Journal Reference:  Tove Fall, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Keith Dobney, Carri Westgarth, Patrik K. E. Magnusson. Evidence of large genetic influences on dog ownership in the Swedish Twin Registry has implications for understanding domestication and health associations. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1)

Study: DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-44083-9  ; overview


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