A new study conducted by a team of British and Swedish scientists has found that identifying as a ‘dog person’ is largely influenced by genetic makeup. While the assumption previously was that an adulthood preference for dogs came from owning one in childhood, it turns out that pet preference starts long before a child’s first trip to the breeder. Or shelter. No judgement, but adopt don’t shop if you can.
Publishing the study in the Scientific Reports, the researchers used data from the Swedish Twin Registry, compiling information from 35,035 set of twins. The researchers looked at the differences between identical twins, who share their entire genome, and fraternal or non-identical twins, who share only half their genome, hoping to take ‘must love dogs’ from dating websites and expanding it to DNA results as well.
The researchers found that when it came to identical twins, if one twin owned a dog in adulthood, there was a much higher likelihood that the other twin would also own a dog. This was not the case with fraternal or non-identical twins. If one fraternal twin owned a dog, it appeared to have no bearing on whether their twin also owned a dog.
Tove Fall is a Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University, and the lead researcher on this study. She’s also someone we assume wasn’t allowed to have a dog as a child and is now making it her life’s mission to ensure other kids have data to bring to the bargaining table.
“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times,” said Fall. “Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.”
Carri Westgarth, a Lecturer in Human-Animal interaction at the University of Liverpool, is the co-author of the study and says that the findings have important implications and aren’t just a way for one half of a couple to argue why they should get a dog, which is what we initially thought. “These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied.”
As pointed out by the researchers, the new findings prove that genetics do play a role in determining whether a person feels the need to own a dog, but the study doesn’t tell us which genes are responsible for the connection. That’s good news if you want to use ‘science’ as your reason for wanting a dog but don’t want to produce any genetic data to back it up.