Genetics Explain Dogs' Special Relationship with Humans

Dogs, or known in the scientific name Canis familiaris, are identified to be a man's best friend. They have unique social skills in communicating, interacting and cooperating with humans. The secret behind it is their genes that appear to be connected with the propensity for them to seek human help and contact.

Genome-Wide Association study made use of 437 laboratory beagles that were bred, kept and handled under standardized conditions.

Per Jensen, co-author of the said study from Linkoping University in Sweden, said that their aim is to find some of the genetic backgrounds of the process and to understand the genetic underpinnings of domestication with a question, "What is it that has helped to turn the wolf, which is really not interested in humans to start off with, into this extremely sociable creature which is the dog?"

These dogs were put inside a room with a researcher who they are not familiar with and presented with the same tasks.

There were 3 transparent, sliding lids which were presented to each dog. Inside each container is a treat. However, one of the lids was fixed and there is no way for the dog to open it.

The dogs were given 3 minutes to claim the treat and were recorded trying to open the containers with their several behaviors such as jumping up to the researcher and making eye contact with them.

"We know that wolves don't seek help, they will attempt to solve the problem on their own, and some dogs actually do that - they just keep going and trying to open this lid," said Jensen. "But the most common reaction is at some point to turn to the human."

There were 95 dogs who have top scores and 95 with the bottom scores for the social interactions. They took DNA samples from these dogs and they analyzed and compared them with distinctions across the genome patterned for an association with scores for specific behaviors.

They found out that there are genomic regions for dog amiability and inter-species interaction which helped researchers advance their understanding on dog domestication.

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