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Evidence of large genetic influences on dog ownership in the Swedish Twin Registry has implications for understanding domestication and health associations

By Tove Fall, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Keith Dobney, Carri Westgarth, Patrik K. E. Magnusson

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Abstract

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and, according to the archaeological evidence, have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are common pets in our society and have been linked to increased well-being and improved health outcomes in their owners. A dog in the family during childhood is associated with ownership in adult life. The underlying factors behind this association could be related to experiences or to genetic influences. We aimed to investigate the heritability of dog ownership in a large twin sample including all twins in the Swedish Twin Registry born between 1926 and 1996 and alive in 2006. Information about dog ownership was available from 2001 to 2016 from national dog registers. The final data set included 85,542 twins from 50,507 twin pairs with known zygosity, where information on both twins were available in 35,035 pairs. Structural equation modeling was performed to estimate additive genetic effects (the heritability), common/shared environmental, and unique/non-shared environmental effects. We found that additive genetic factors largely contributed to dog ownership, with heritability estimated at 57% for females and 51% for males. An effect of shared environmental factors was only observed in early adulthood. In conclusion, we show a strong genetic contribution to dog ownership in adulthood in a large twin study. We see two main implications of this finding: (1) genetic variation may have contributed to our ability to domesticate dogs and other animals and (2) potential pleiotropic effects of genetic variation affecting dog ownership should be considered in studies examining health impacts of dog ownership.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Publication Title Scientific Reports
Volume 9
Pages 7
DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-44083-9
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44083-9
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Dogs
  4. Domestication
  5. Human behavior
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. Pets and companion animals
Badges
  1. open access