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Study: The Bond Between You and Your Dog Might be Genetic

And it might even explain your pet's need for attention.

Young girl giving her pet dog a kiss
Photography by: Catherine Delahaye/Getty

Scientists have discovered that some of your dog's genes are linked to a need for human contact. So it's true: dogs depend on their owners — that's you! — for social connection.

 

The newly published study followed 437 beagles that were bred and raised in similar conditions, and eventually tested with different tasks. Researchers suggest they have found several genetic backgrounds connecting the dogs between wolf evolution to the wonderful canine companions we have now.

 

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So what exactly was the test? The dogs were tested with three clear plastic lids covering a treat; however, one lid was stuck which would mean the dog would need assistance in achieving the treat. The dogs had three minutes to retrieve the treat from underneath the lid while a researcher stood there watching 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, but the most common reaction is at some point to turn to the human," said Per Jensen, the co-author of the research from Linköping University in Sweden. As we know from past studies, dogs may have become domesticated over time deriving from two populations of the grey wolf. Scientists say DNA shows dogs of more than 400 breeds have evolved from grey wolves that were alrive more than 15,000 years ago. Scientists on the study also say it's very difficult to domesticate an animal, so for a dog to become domesticated, it is a huge deal. (We, for one, are grateful they are.)

 

DNA samples were taken from the dogs who scored highly for social interactions with their attending researchers — jumping up and eye conact. After testing these samples, the results concluded that there were two genomic regions with the dog that yearned for human contact that were associated with the behavior they showed during the trials. This study shows that they do have a desire to be social with humans and it's not just all in our head. For the next phase, scientists hope to begin studying on Labrador retrievers soon and test the results on other dog breeds.

 

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What should we do with this newfound information? It proves that dogs need social interactions as much as we do! So go give your best friend a pat on the head or belly rub. (Science says, he needs it.)

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