Is Aggression Genetic In Dogs

Nationwide Children’s Hospital researchers have discovered that dogs have a genetic propensity to hostility when it is directed towards their owner or another familiar dog; this fear and aggression differs from when those feelings are directed toward humans and dogs who are unfamiliar to them.

Everyone occasionally feels some form of anxiety, but for the most part, the feeling is transient and comes and goes. Another symptom of an anxiety disorder is when the sensation does not go away but instead gets worse with time. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent type of mental illness in the United States, claims a press release from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The biochemistry of anxiety has been the subject of extensive study, although little is known about the potential contribution of genetics.

In a study that was just published in BMC Genomics, researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital claim that “man’s best friend has a genetic tendency to hostility directed towards an owner or a known dog. Additionally, this fear and hostility are distinct from those that are experienced when facing unfamiliar persons and dogs. According to the press release, these features are linked to twelve genes.

The Center for Molecular and Human Genetics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute’s Carlos Alvarez, PhD, Principal Investigator, stated that “Our strongest focus is on specific genes related to aggression toward unfamiliar humans and dogs, which are associated with highly relevant genes at two genome regions. These genes are consistent with the main neurological pathway connecting the amygdala to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls fear and aggression.

In order to comprehend fear and violence better, Alvarez and his team undertook a study. Using breed stereotypes and a series of interbreed genomic scans, the team was able to map behavioral features. The study’s two phases—discovery and validation—were carried out by the researchers to guarantee the reliability of their conclusions. According to the study, the first part of the analysis involved two SNP datasets and nine behavioral phenotypes for fear and aggression. The researchers next set out to confirm their findings by projecting behavior for breeds that were left out of the initial portion of the study. Based on a few signals, the researchers predicted that they would be able to identify specific behavioral tendencies.

The team of researchers used previously published values and distributions for aggression and fear variables for the 30 “most popular breeds” of the American Kennel Club, which they describe to as “C-BARQ phenotypes,” which are behavioral phenotypes. The data set was made up of 6,818 animal subjects and was a compilation of behavior information about dogs reported by their owners who were registered with the American Kennel Club.

The study found that “C-BARQ data decomposes aggressiveness into 4 classes: dog-directed aggression (toward unfamiliar dogs), owner-directed aggression, and dog rivalry” (towards familiar humans and dogs respectively). Similar to how C-BARQ categorizes fear into 5 categories, stranger-oriented fear is focused on unfamiliar humans, dog-oriented fear is focused on unfamiliar dogs, nonsocial fear is focused on environmental phenomena, separation-related anxiety is focused on being left alone by the owner, and touch sensitivity is focused on touching something. 200 dogs that had previously been identified with behavioral issues served as the subjects for a previous study that confirmed dog rivalry and touch sensitivity.

The “Vaysse dataset,” one of the two datasets utilized in the study, was used by the researchers to map out and make predictions based on markers that had been discovered for breeds. A total of 30 dog breeds were represented by 456 participants in the Vaysse dataset, which also includes about 175,000 “SNPs on the CanineHD array. In the second dataset, known as the “Bokyo dataset, there were 890 individuals representing 80 different dog breeds, together with about 45,000 SNPs on the Affymetrix v.2 Canine array. However, not all of the breeds included in both datasets had the stereotypic characteristics, so the researchers only included the animals who had them, yielding 150 subjects from 11 dog breeds that were included in both datasets.

The researchers set out to develop a model that would accurately predict fear and aggression using “validated loci in a third group of dog breeds that were not involved in the previous cohorts after mapping out the breed stereotypic phenotypes for fear and aggression traits and confirming them using a second cohort from the Bokyo dataset.

According to the study, they discovered that I known IGF1 and HMGA2 loci variants from small body size are associated with separation anxiety, touch sensitivity, owner directed aggression, and dog rivalry; and ii) two loci, between GNAT3 and CD36 on chr18, and near IGSF1 on chrX, are associated with several traits, including touch sensitivity, non-social fear, fear and aggression that are directed toward unfamiliar dogs and humans.

According to the news release, Dr. Alvarez believes that these findings could be applicable to human anxiety illnesses as well as understanding behavioral concerns in dogs. Given that there are shared risk variations among dog breeds, the veterinary practice is a good venue to test experimental treatments that target biochemical pathways linked to anxiety. Researchers may discover novel targets for medications designed to change emotional and behavioral outcomes if they can determine which neural pathways risk variation affects. The next stage would be to use the outcomes of these discoveries and, with the owners’ permission, test newly developed medicines on canines. If the studies are successful, the experts believe that humans may someday gain from similar medicines.

According to the press release, researchers will have access to biomarkers that could help identify patients who would respond best to such treatments as a result of the increased understanding of the biochemical pathways.

The project has only just begun, Dr. Alvarez noted while discussing the future. In addition to expanding the number of dog breeds analyzed and biologically validating the results, we are still looking for and validating additional genes linked to these attributes. We are eager to see what else this research will reveal.

Is canine aggression inherited or acquired?

likely to be shared among animals with comparable genetic makeup. While earlier investigations into the genetic causes of

This study, which was published on October 1 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, examined dog habits for specific breeds.

“But we didn’t know how much or why,” said the Seattle campus of the University of Washington. Dogs and people have

a minimum of 15,000 years have been spent coexisting (SN: 7/6/17). But breeders have only begun to do so in the past 300 years or so.

The behavior of 101 dog breeds was taken into account by Snyder-Mackler and his colleagues as they looked for genetic commonalities among breeds that shared specific psychological features. The C-BARQ survey, which asks owners to rate their purebred dog’s propensity for particular behaviors like chasing or aggression toward strangers, and two dog genotyping databases provided the data. The lack of genetic and behavioral information from the same canine individuals meant that the study was unable to highlight rare genetic variations that might nonetheless be crucial for behavioral variability.

commonalities between breeds that received comparable scores. For characteristics like aggressiveness

Then, researchers looked for particular genetic variations that might influence behavioral

According to Carlos Alvarez, a genomics researcher at Nationwide, you would predict for genes you believe might be influencing behavior.

He claims that dogs’ personalities are entirely natural and programmed. There’s

Canine hostility that is inherited be treated?

Some people will remark that a dog is simply mean when it growls, lunges, or bites. The truth is more nuanced.

As Dr. Sackman advises, “it’s better to start treating aggression as soon as the first signs develop. When controlling aggression in dogs, it’s crucial to pinpoint the trigger and pay close attention to his behavior. Speak to your primary care doctor or a veterinary behaviorist if you have any worries.


The following are some of the most frequent causes of canine aggression:

  • Fear-based The most common reason for dog aggression and dog attacks is fear. Just like people, each dog has unique phobias that may or may not make sense to other people. Dogs frequently experience dread of other dogs, puppies, kids, humans, and veterinary visits. Fearful dogs will lunge, snarl, snap, and sometimes bite to fend off people or other dogs that are frightening to them.
  • Territorial
  • Your dog may exhibit territorial aggression if his aggressiveness is directed toward a boundary, such as a fence in the backyard, a door, or the windows of a car. Dogs’ need to defend their home is ingrained in their DNA because they were raised in part to be house guard dogs. However, hostility might result from the territorial instinct. When your dog is on a leash walk or within a veterinary office, his personal space may occasionally serve as his boundary.
  • resource protection
  • Your dog is guarding a valuable resource with resource-guarding. The things your dog is willing to fight for, such as a couch, a human, food, food bowls, a bed, or a favorite treat or chew toy, are known as resource-guarding triggers. Never approach a dog guarding a valuable object and attempt to remove it; you risk getting bitten.
  • Maternal
  • Dogs share the inherent instinct of many mother animals to protect their offspring at all costs.
  • Play-based
  • Dogs with play-based aggressiveness become extremely excited while playing and may grasp with their lips or act aggressively in other ways. Although the dog may think that this is merely play, actual damage could happen.
  • Inter-dog
  • In-house dog fighting is referred to as inter-dog aggressiveness.

A dog may be more prone to aggressive behavior as a result of his past experiences. For instance, a dog who has previously been grabbed and bit by another dog may start acting aggressively against dogs he does not know out of fear. There isn’t truly a “kind of dog that is more prone to hostility than another,” with the exception of those who have experienced trauma in the past. It’s a popular misperception that a dog’s breed affects the likelihood that aggressive tendencies would emerge in it.

Dr. Sackman claims that there is no correlation between a dog’s breed and its propensity for aggression. “Like people, there is a hereditary base which can make some dogs more prone to react with violent behaviors. It’s not connected to a dog’s specific breed, though.


It’s critical to spot the warning symptoms of canine aggression. When a dog is exposed to something that triggers aggressive behavior, the aggressive behavior often increases from a low point to a high point. A dog acting aggressively is probably stressed out or afraid of particular stimuli or circumstances, and as a result, acts aggressively. An aggressive dog is probably expressing his discomfort in the situation.

Looking at the canine ladder of aggression can help one grasp this. The more subdued symptoms of stress include licking the lips, yawning out of worry, stiffness of the body, and turning away. The dog may display medium-level indicators of stress, such as snarling, barking, snapping, or lunging to defend himself out of fear, if he is unable to withdraw himself or if the situation intensifies.

Finally, your dog will climb to the highest rungs of the ladder and snap or bite if he honestly believes, “I think I’m going to die.” The majority of the time, your dog attacks because he feels the need to protect himself, and the lunge, snap, and bite are ways for him to remove the source of his fear.


It’s critical to remember that there is no treatment for hostility. Through appropriate treatment with a veterinary behavioral specialist, aggressive tendencies are regulated and minimized. Additionally, it’s critical to realize that violence is a behavioral problem rather than a matter of obedience.

For all of her patients with violence, Dr. Sackman suggests a three-part therapy strategy:

  • environmental control to reduce the trigger’s exposure to your dog
  • Changing your dog’s behavior can help them feel differently about the trigger
  • prescription drugs to treat fear and anxiety

An essential component of controlling violence is desensitization to the trigger. By rewarding your dog for acting quietly around the aggression trigger that causes fear, you can use this technique. Give your dog a very nice prize, such a piece of hot dog, when he approaches the trigger without displaying any signs of hostility, even if it is from a distance. You’re telling him that when he looks at the frightful dog, person, etc., nice things happen.