Genes may decide if you will own a dog: Study

Genes may decide if you will own a dog: Study

Golden Retriever dog "Balou"(Photo AFP)

Your genetic makeup can significantly influence whether you will own a dog or not, a study suggests.

Scientists studied the heritability of dog ownership using the information on 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that genetic variation explains more than half of the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice of getting a dog is heavily influenced by an individual's genetic makeup.

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years.

Today, dogs are common pets and are considered to increase the well-being and health of their owners, researchers said.

"We were surprised to see that a person's genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog," said Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden.

"These findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times," Fall said.

Although dogs and other pets are common household members around the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health, researchers said.

Some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others, they said.

"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," said Carri Westgarth, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

Studying twins is a well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on biology and behaviour.

Since identical twins share their entire genome, and non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog.

The researchers found rates of dog ownership to be much larger in identical twins than in non-identical ones -- supporting the view that genetics does play a major role in the choice of owning a dog.

"These kinds of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership," said Patrik Magnusson, an associate professor at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

"The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy," said Magnusson.