Highly heritable and functionally relevant breed differences in dog behaviour

Evan L. MacLean, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Bridgett M. VonHoldt, James A. Serpell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Variation across dog breeds presents a unique opportunity to investigate the evolution and biological basis of complex behavioural traits. We integrated behavioural data from more than 14 000 dogs from 101 breeds with breed-averaged genotypic data (n = 5697 dogs) from over 100 000 loci in the dog genome. We found high levels of among-breed heritability for 14 behavioural traits (the proportion of trait variance attributable to genetic similarity among breeds). We next identified 131 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with breed differences in behaviour, which were found in genes that are highly expressed in the brain and enriched for neurobiological functions and developmental processes, suggesting that they may be functionally associated with behavioural differences. Our results shed light on the heritability and genetic architecture of complex behavioural traits and identify dogs as a powerful model in which to address these questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190716
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1912
StatePublished - Oct 9 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Behaviour
  • Breed
  • Dog
  • Evolution
  • Genetics
  • Heritability


Dive into the research topics of 'Highly heritable and functionally relevant breed differences in dog behaviour'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this