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Researchers find out the genetic influence behind dog ownership

A team of researchers of Swedish and British scientists conducted a study on heritability of owning a dog with the help of 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. This recent study says that the adaptability of the type of dogs depends heavily on the owner’s genes. Dogs were the first animals whom humans made their pet. The relationships of dogs with humans have been intact from the past 15,000 years. The researchers compared the genes with that of twins to that of the dog owners and the result was published for the first time in the Scientific Reports journal.

The main motive of this project was to see if the dog ownership had more impact of heredity or not. The results were surprising and the scientists noticed that the genes of a person had a greater impact on whether they owned a dog. This is the main reason why dogs and humans have shared a good relationship for so many years. Though pets are common in the households and dogs are more common but the impact in the owner’s health and life due to their presence is unknown or known very little.

Tove Fall, the lead author of this study and a Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at  Uppsala University said that some of the people take very good care of their pets than many other people. Carri Westgarth, a lecturer in the field of human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool and the co-author of the study added that this study is important as it can explain the supposed health benefits of owning a dog.

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The study of twins is a well-known method for dissecting the influences of environment and genes on biology and behaviour. It is said that identical twins share an entire genome whereas non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation and comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership within groups will reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog or not.

The scientists found the concordance rates of dog owners to be much larger in identical twins than that of the nonidentical ones and genes does play in the choice whether to own a dog or not. Which genes play an important role is not yet known and it is said that decades of archaeological research has helped in constructing a better relationship with the dogs.

The next step for the scientists is to find out the exact genetic variant responsible for an individual’s choices. This is a huge step in understanding the long history of the domestication of dog and the genetic reasons behind it.

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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