Genes have been identified which may be associated with the development of human-directed social behaviours in dogs, according to a study in Scientific Reports this week. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) identified two regions in the genome of beagles, containing a total of five genes, which may be associated with behaviours such as attention seeking, and remaining in close proximity to humans.
Per Jensen and colleagues recorded the propensity of laboratory beagles, bred, kept and handled under standardized conditions, to initiate physical interactions with humans during an unsolvable-problem task. In this task, the dogs had to slide three lids open in order to obtain treats in the containers underneath. However, one of the lids had been fixed in place and could not be opened. The authors recorded if the dogs engaged in any human-directed social behaviours as a result of this ‘unsolvable’ task, such as seeking eye contact with humans.
The genomes of 190 of these beagles were then analysed and the authors identified two genomic regions containing a total of five candidate genes which may be associated with human-directed social behaviours. The study revealed a genetic marker within the gene SEZ6L which was associated with time spent close to, and in physical contact with, humans. Two suggestive markers located within the gene ARVCF, were also associated with human-contact-seeking.
The authors note that additional studies are required to further validate their current results.