Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.
In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.
Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.
What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.
This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.
Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.
In a recent experiment by Isabelle Chea, a then-undergraduate honors student at the UA, and Ann Baldwin, UA professor of physiology and psychology, found that sniffing lavender calmed horses. However, the calming affect only lasted while they were sniffing the vapor.
Google free image
This is a good thing because the traditional method of calming a nervous horse is to use tranquilizers which remain in the horse after it is needed. However, sniffing the lavender can be used only when needed with no side or prolonged affects.
Professor Baldwin plans to try other scents and doses to see if they calm horses as well. I would love to see experiments on dogs and cats using various types of aromatherapy to calm them, especially for veterinarian visits.
Although Dr Alan McElligott is currently based at the University of Roehampton, he led the study at Queen Mary University of London to determine if goats react to human facial expressions. He found that goats would rather interact with people who smile and are happy. The study further showed that goats use the left hemisphere of their brain to react to positive facial expressions.
Anyone who works with goats recognizes that they are very attuned to human body language, but this study shows that goats recognize facial expressions and the emotions that they represent. Past studies have shown that dogs, birds and horses also have this ability.
Goats, horses, birds and dogs represent a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom. It stands to reason that many other animals, both domestic and wild have the same abilities to some degree. The challenge is to devise a way to test a wider range of animals and birds. It is exciting to be able to understand more about the animals that we love and anticipate what future studies will teach us.
Associate Professor Ayaka Takimoto of Hokkaido University, graduate student Kosuke Nakamura of The University of Tokyo, and former Professor Toshikazu Hasegawa of The University of Tokyo have established that horses, like dogs, can read and understand human faces and emotions.
They found that horses who looked at human faces while listening to recorded voices were able to recognize when the face was happy, but the voice recording was scolding and knew that the voice did not match the face. They were able to recognize happy faces with happy recordings and angry faces with angry recordings.
What was also interesting was that it did not matter if the horse knew the person or not. They were still able to match the correct facial expression with the correct voice.
Horses do have strong communication capabilities. They can read the emotions of other horses using facial expressions, contact calls, and whinnies. With this in mind, it is not surprising that with their long association with humans, that they have learned to read us. It would be reasonable to assume that other members of the equine family have the capability to read us too.
Dr. Catrin Rutland, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Developmental Genetics at Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, led a study with the Kazan Federal University and the Moscow State Academy of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnology that discovered the use of DNA injections to cure injury related lameness in horses.
Within two months the horses were 100% restored to their pre-injury state. The gene therapy uses a combination of the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor gene VEGF164, to enhance the growth of blood vessels and bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), which plays an important role in the development of bone and cartilage.
The genes were taken from horses and cloned into a DNA, which was not rejected by the horses that were treated since it was horse DNA. The current therapies for lameness at best has only a 40 to 80% success rate and can take up to 6 months for the horse to recover.
The DNA treatment resulted in the tissues in the horse’s limbs to be fully recovered. As a follow-up the horses were examined a year later and found to be 100% fit, active and pain free.
Not only is this good for horses, but the researchers hope that with further research, the method can be used on all animals, including people who suffer from similar injuries.