Scientists Discover “Friendliness” Gene in Dogs

It’s the friendliness gene that makes dogs so happy when their human companions come home. The excitement often cannot be contained, as seen in the short video above.

Scientists now think they have some evidence about what makes doggo such a friendly creature.

Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times

Your dog is basically a super social wolf, and scientists may have found the gene that makes him want to cuddle with you.

A new study shows that friendliness in dogs is associated with the same genes that make some people hyper-social.

The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, found that structural variations in three genes on chromosome 6 are correlated with how much canines socialize with humans. An analysis of DNA from two dozen animals revealed that these genes look very different in dogs than they do in wolves.

Mutations in the same genes are also linked with a rare developmental disorder in humans called Williams-Beuren Syndrome, or WBS. People with WBS are typically hyper-social, meaning they form bonds quickly and show great interest in other people, including strangers. Other symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities as well as cardiovascular problems.

To Bridgett vonHoldt, who studies canine genetics at Princeton University, some of these traits sounded a lot like the behaviors of domesticated dogs, especially compared with wolves.

For example, dogs like to stay close to humans and gaze at them for longer periods of time than wolves do. Dogs also tend to be less independent in problem-solving when they’re around people, and they retain their affinity for humans throughout their lives.

“Many dogs maintain their puppy-like enthusiasm for social interactions throughout their life, whereas wolves grow out of this behavior and engage in more mature, abbreviated greetings as they age,” said Monique Udell, who studies animal behavior at Oregon State University and co-authored the new study. “One might think of how a young child greets you versus a teenager or adult relative.”

These behaviors are typical of what scientists call domestication syndrome, and researchers have noticed them in other kinds of domesticated animals as well. But they don’t fully understand how the underlying genetic changes develop.

“Everyone wants to find the genes that make dogs different from wolves, and try to understand how domestication changed the genome,” vonHoldt said.

She already had a head start. In 2010, as part of her doctoral research, vonHoldt had mapped the entire genome of 225 gray wolves and 912 dogs from 85 breeds. There were a few genes that stood out as consistently different between dogs and wolves, especially the WBS gene WBSCR17. But vonHoldt still didn’t have a handle on how those genetic differences were related to behavior.

VonHoldt met Udell three years ago, and they started chatting about canines. Together they realized that if they combined vonHoldt’s genetic expertise with Udell’s canine behavior data, they might be able to find the missing link.

They decided to examine the social behavior of a group of dogs and a group of wolves and then analyze their DNA in the region that included the WBSCR17 gene.

This idea was pretty new. While scientists have analyzed the genes responsible for specific clinical disorders in dogs, something as complex and varied as social behavior is a lot trickier to study.

After selecting 18 dogs and 10 gray wolves who had been socialized with humans, they began their work with a series of behavioral tests.

When the dogs were given a puzzle box with a sausage hidden inside, only two of the 18 were able to open the box whether or not a human was present. Wolves performed much better: eight of the 10 opened the box when a human was present, and nine of them opened the box when they were left alone.

When dogs were in the presence of a human, they spent a median of 20% of their time looking at the person and only 10% of the time looking at the box. The wolves, on the other hand, spent nearly 100% of the time looking at the box whether or not a human was present.

Udell said that these results agreed with previous studies that have shown that dogs are not as good at independent problem-solving as wolves, and that they get more distracted by social stimulation.

Next came the sociability test, which took place in four phases. In each, a human sat in a chair near a dog or a wolf for two minutes, and researchers recorded how much time the canine in question spent within 1 meter of the person.

In the first round, the person was a stranger who sat passively in the chair, not making eye contact or speaking to the animal. In the second round, the stranger actively engaged with the canine. Then the two phases were repeated with an owner or caretaker instead of a stranger.

The researchers determined that when familiar humans were present, dogs spent a median of 93% of their time near people while wolves spent only 36% of theirs. However, when the humans were strangers, the dogs stuck around 53% of the time and wolves 28% — a difference too small to be statistically significant considering the small number of animals involved.

While there was some variation between individual dogs and individual wolves, what was really important to the researchers was to determine whether there was a link between the sociability of each canine and what his or her DNA looked like.

So they took blood samples from 16 of the dogs and eight of the wolves and analyzed a large chunk of DNA on chromosome 6, including the region associated with WBS. (Two of the dogs and two of the wolves were not included in this part of the study because researchers were missing some behavioral data or because they couldn’t get enough blood for the DNA analysis.)

They found mutations in three genes that were much more common in the hyper-social canines, most of which were dogs. These three genes are called GTF2I, GTF2IRD1 and WBSCR17, and have also been shown to cause an increase in social behavior in mice and are believed to do the same in humans.

Interestingly, two of the wolves were very social and dog-like in their behavior, while one of the dogs acted quite wolf-like. The team found that the two social wolves had more mutations in these three genes, while the wolf-like dog had fewer mutations.

7 thoughts on “Scientists Discover “Friendliness” Gene in Dogs

  1. Makes me even more disgusted by how the groids treat dogs. I’ve seen them intentionally run down two dogs in my life and seen about a half dozen near miss attempts. Those POS will bring home a puppy because it’s cute and as soon as it grows they don’t want to deal with it anymore so they tie it to a tree in the backyard year round 24/7. I called the SPCA and told them if they really want to make a difference they need to go into black neighborhoods and work with Animal Control on tethering violations and other forms of rampant cruelty. They called me a racist and hung up. Shocker, huh?

    • I’m going to think about your call to Animal Control. There must be a way to get them to act, but it escapes me right now. Here locally, I’ve seen Mexicans tie up dogs and ignore them. It’s usually nonwhites that do this stuff.

      • Laws vary county to county and state to state. Sadly, where I live just about every city job position is held by a negro, so the level of apathy and incompetence is the stuff of legend. I also have no doubt that when they hear a white voice calling to complain about one of theirs they take great joy in doing nothing.

  2. I think a lot of science is somewhat farcical. Everybody knows dogs are friendly – except those that get bit and those few unlucky humans that get eaten by dogs.

    Looking for a gene which will obviously be there is not rocket science.

    Why do they not study why white people are altruistic not just to dogs but to Niggers and Muzloids, who intend to genocide them, or force them to convert to Mohammed-ism.

    This gene should be called the stupidity gene or the altruistic/suicide gene. It was useful when whites lived only with other whites. Now that Jews have constructed a monster New World Order, this white gene is deadly.

    “developmental disorder in humans called White-Brainless Syndrome, or WBS. People with WBS are typically hyper-trusting and altruistic, meaning they form bonds quickly and show great interest in dark skinned people, including strangers. Other symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities as well as an intense obsession with working full time, voting for lefturds, and paying huge amounts of tax, so that Niggers can breed even faster and replace all whites”.

  3. “Many dogs maintain their puppy-like enthusiasm for social interactions throughout their life, whereas wolves grow out of this behavior and engage in more mature, abbreviated greetings as they age,”
    Wolves sound like a better pet than a dog. Who wants a needy babyish thing following them around 23 hours per day? Not I, who enjoys privacy
    I have no pet but prefer cats such as Orange Tomcats. If a cat loves you, you have earned it. They do not follow you like little babies. They behave like adults. I might get some hate with this post.
    If I did have a dog it would not be a killer. I would get a Golden Retriever.

  4. No reputable agency would accept results from so few participants, only 16 dogs and 8 wolves.

    While the research was to compare friendliness in dogs and domesticated wolves, and individuals were looked at, dog breeds were not. No mention whether they were pure-bred, mixed by 2, or Heinz varieties.

    Purebred dogs must act and look like, and breed AKC’s description of that dog. Friendly is a description of a Golden Retriever. Distant with strangers describes German Shepherds.

    They take 16 dogs, some known to be friendly or distant, throw them in with maybe mixed breeds and generalize. It troubles me they used knowns as unknowns in a study about friendliness.

    They tested the dogs to see if they had mutations. Those that did were friendly, but never mentioned if the known friendly dogs like Goldens had the mutations. Goldens were bred for retrieving, but they’re also bred for their friendliness with everyone. Having too many known friendly breeds or too many known distant breeds skews results. A known friendly dog will spend more time with strangers. A known distant dog, German Shepherd, will walk across the room away from the strangers, then watch or stare at them. Both breeds are pretty predictable.

    As for intelligence, the intelligent dogs I’ve had were persistent when solving problems, then came to me for help if they couldn’t be solved, but most asked for help immediately when physically they couldn’t solve the problem, when human hands were needed, for example. Those on the lower IQ scale were more likely to ask for help sooner, lost interest in solving the problem much more quickly than high IQ dogs. For this friendly study, not only knowing the breed important, so was intelligence. For example, maybe, dogs on the lower IQ scale represented a higher number of the dogs tested with the box, the reason why only two opened it. Here again, it’s pretty predictable known intelligent breeds are more likely to open the box.

    That more of the wolves opened the boxes with strangers and non-strangers probably indicates their instinctual tendency to do things themselves. They never could get a human to help them. I’m thinking these wolves were domesticated as puppies, but their parents were wild. Dogs have been around people for thousands of years knowing their human friends will help. Lets test these wolves thousands of years from now after being around people.

    “While there was some variation between individual dogs and individual wolves, what was really important to the researchers was to determine whether there was a link between the sociability of each canine and what his or her DNA looked like.”

    Yes, I’d like to know that, too, but with more specificity. I’d like to know the breeds of dogs used and did the known friendly breeds all have mutations and more of it? Did the known distant breeds have no or few mutations. Should dogs known to be friendlier or more distant be excluded from the study?

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