Here’s Why Dogs Are So Friendly

As we all know, dog is man’s best friend. But… why? A new study has the answer.

#14. Skinny Genes

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A new study shows that dogs have genetic alterations that make them more sociable than wolves, their distant relatives. It is this alteration that separate our faithful friends from wild wolves. But, how did scientists discover that? Click on the next slide to find out.

#13. The Study

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Princeton evolutionary biologist, Bridgett Von Holdt spent three years studying dogs and wolvesunderlying gentic basis for social behavior. She even had her own 11-month-old puppy genotyped.

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#12. How Similar are Dogs and Wolves?

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These studies showed that dogs are more social than wolves raised in similar circumstances, i.e. wolves raised as dogs. Dogs paid more attention to humans and followed directions and commands more effectively. This is why researches wondered if this pattern could be genetic.

Check the next slide to understand how these genes work.

#11. Dogs are More Similar to Us than We Think

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Von Holdt’s team provided a very intriging clue in their July 19 study: Hypersocial dogs carry variants of two genes (GTF2I and GTF2IRD1), which humans also carry. When those genes are deleted in humans, they develop Williams Syndrome. This syndrome caused, among other things, a tendency to love everyone. Sounds familiar, right?

Click on the next page to see how these genes manifest in dogs.

#10. Our Dog’s Love for Us is Genetic

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Researchers believe that the gene variants inhibit their normal function in dogs, which leads them to experience the same issues seen in humans with Williams Syndrome. As Von Holdt puts it: “We may have bred a behavioral syndrom into a companion animal”.

But, why haven’t wolves developed it too? Find out on the next page.

#9. Faithful Friends

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Wolves and dogs have evolved from a shared ancestor about 10,000 years ago. Ergo, dogs have been our best friends, helping us find food and protecting us from predators, for thousands of years.

Has domestication played a part in the dogs’ evolution? Check out the next slide to see.

#8. Evolution is the Answer

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We have lived among dogs for thousands of years.  Studies seem to evidence that our domestication of dogs over all these years caused them to evolve and develop genetic alterations that determined their behavior. 

A canine behavior expert believes that understanding this alteration is a “sexy question”. She explains it on the next page.

#7. Distant Relatives

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Oregon State University animal behaviorist Monique Uddell, in collaboration with Von Holdt, discovered that the WBSCR17 gene, which is shared by both dogs and wolves, was actually altered in dogs and not in wolves. This seems to indicate that dog domestication over the years caused this gene to be altered.

Check out the next slide to see how they actually discovered this.

#6. Put in Practice

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This study took many years to finish, as the reasearchers couldn’t get enough funding to do it. In 2014, they finally secured funding to start experimenting. They studied 18 dogs of various breeds: dachshunds, Jack Russell terriers, among others, and 10 wolves habituated to humans. 

Up next, how they developed their experiment.

#5. Following Instructions

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All of the animals were trained to open a box containing a piece of sausage. Afterwards, they were asked to open it in three different situations: with a familiar human present; with an unfamiliar human; and alone, without anyone around.

The results of the experiment are coming up next.

#4. The Results

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In all three scenarios,by a large margin,  the wolves actually outperformed the dogs. The margin was largely expanded when the dogs opened the box in front of people. But… why? (Continues on the next page)

#3. Can’t Take my Eyes off You

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The reason why dogs couldn’t solve the puzzle wasn’t because wolves are smarter. In fact, the dogs just couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand, because they were too busy looking at the human. All their attention was fixated on people. How cute is that?!

Check out the next slide to see how dogs are still evolving.

#2. Darwin Was Right

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Von Holdt additionally conducted genetic analysis of the genome part that surrounds the altered WBSCR17 gene in an even larger group of dogs and wolves. Not only did she confirm her initial findings, but she also found the alteration of genes GTF2I and GTF2IR1. 

Don’t miss the end of this surprising discovery on the next slide.

#1. It’s all About Us

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Evolution is a slow process, but it never actually stops. All species on Earth are evolving before our eyes. Because of our influence on dogs, we managed to turn wolves into human-loving dogs, and this is evidenced by those genetic alterations found in dogs. And it doesn’t stop there. Nowadays, people are selecting dogs that are easy keepers and can spend long periods of time in small apartments, basically adapting them to our evolving society. As Von Holdt says, “we are actively changing dog behavior every single year”.