How Your Genes Can Influence Whether You’ll Be A Dog Person

Updated: August 2, 2019
You may think that certain people simply prefer dogs over cats, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
relaxing with dog

A recent study published by a team of Swedish and British scientists at Uppsala University suggests that becoming a dog owner is heavily influenced by an individual’s genetic structure and make-up.

More: An Age-by-Age Guide to Explaining the Death of a Pet to Children

Does Genetic Make-Up Impact Dog Ownership?

In studying 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry, it was found that the rate of dog ownership was significantly higher for identical twins versus fraternal, because non-identical twins only share half of the same genetic variations, while identical twins share their entire genome. 

"We were surprised to see that a person's genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others." says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

Using twins for studies is a commonly used method, because it removes the influences of genes and environment on participants from the equation. In this study, the genetic make-up of the twins were compared with dog owners, and found that dog ownership has a heritable component, as well.

Zooarchaeologist and co-author of the study Keith Dobney, Chair of Human Palaeoecology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool shared: "The study has major implications for understanding the deep and enigmatic history of dog domestication. Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when dogs entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how?"

It seems that this new study, published in Science Daily, proves that there’s more to it than just being a cat or dog person, it all comes down to your genes.

Do Genes Always Impact Dog Ownership?

However, the study is not yet part of a totally perfect system. Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry explained: "These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership. The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy" says Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

Despite the fact that it cannot identify exactly which gene is the reason for being a dog owner, there are bigger implications here outside of the study, says zooarchaeologist and co-author of the study Keith Dobney, Chair of Human Palaeoecology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. 

Dobney shared: "The study has major implications for understanding the deep and enigmatic history of dog domestication. Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when dogs entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how?"

Does this study convince you that being a dog lover or more of a cat person is thanks to your genetics?

Want to know what your baby will inherit from their mother? Here are the 8 Traits Babies Inherit From Their Mother.