There are more than 340 dog breeds globally, each with unique features and behaviors, according to the American Kennel Club. Human beings have bred dogs for pleasure and companionship, for their beauty and elegance, or to assist with tasks, from prehistoric times to the current day.

Both huskies and malamutes are double-coated, allowing them to control body temperature at temperatures below zero, and both beagles and dachshunds have a strong feeling of smell that enables them to detect other animals ‘ unique smells.

While breeding has aimed to select the traits best suited for environments or tasks, the selection has focused not just on physiological and functional characteristics, but also on specific behaviors. For instance, this led in dogs being bred for companionship being adaptable and willing to create friends, and others being much more on their guard initially bred for sentinel job.

So, where do these behavioral variations — and functional features, such as a keen sense of smell — come from?
A fresh research — whose first writer is Erin Hecht, an assistant lecturer at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA — discovered that the behavioral differences particular to dog breeds correspond to variations in brain network structures among dogs. The scientists evaluated MRI scans of 62 purebred animals belonging to 33 distinct races for the present research — the results of which appear in The Journal of Neuroscience.

These breeds were: basset hound, beagle, Bichon Frise, border collie, Boston terrier, boxer, bulldog, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, cocker spaniel, dachshund, Doberman pinscher, English pointer, German shorthaired pointer, golden retriever, greyhound, Jack Russell terrier, keeshond, Labrador retriever, Lhasa apso, Maltese, miniature schnauzer, Old English sheepdog, pitbull, Siberian husky, silky terrier, springer spaniel, standard poodle, Weimaraner, Welsh corgi, West Highland white terrier, wheaten terrier, whippet, and Yorkshire terrier.

The scientists also categorized these races into 10 groups, as provided by the American Kennel Club, according to “behavioral specialization.” These were:
1. scent hunting: basset hound, beagle, dachshund
2. companionship: Bichon Frise, Boston terrier, bulldog, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, keeshond, Maltese, Yorkshire terrier
3. herding: border collie, Old English sheepdog, a Welsh corgi, a wheaten terrier
4. vermin control: Boston terrier, dachshund, Jack Russell terrier, miniature schnauzer, silky terrier, West Highland white terrier, a wheaten terrier, Yorkshire terrier
5. sport fighting: Boston terrier, boxer, bulldog, pitbull
6. sentinel work: boxer, Doberman pinscher, keeshond, Lhasa apso, a wheaten terrier
7. police work: boxer, Doberman pinscher
8. bird retrieval: cocker spaniel, English pointer, German shorthaired pointer, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, springer spaniel, standard poodle
9. sight hunting: greyhound, Weimaraner, whippet
10. war: boxer, Doberman pinscher

The scientists concluded that behavioral variations were directly linked to variations in brain anatomy because, if not, they explain that “variation should be spread randomly across areas.”Instead, as stated by the MRI scans, there were variations between different species in the same, separate brain networks, indicating they could correspond to variations in chosen behaviors.

However, first of all, the scientists had to define separate, mainly autonomous brain areas to see if they differed between breeds. They were able to describe six: one “relevant to human social bonding,” one promoting conscious reactions to tastes and smells, one appropriate for moving through the setting, one probably “engaged in action and interaction,” a region related to fear-related effective mechanisms as well as mating and aggression, and one related to odor and visual stimuli processing.

“Having identified these six networks, we then investigated their relationship to the dog phylogenetic tree,” the authors explain in their study paper.”We discovered important correlations with at least one cognitive specialization in all six of the regionally covariant networks. Associations between brain networks and associated specializations in behavior are evident.

The researchers also offer some examples, noting that breeds specialized in scent hunting have a better-developed network that supports conscious responses to smells.

Writer: Sakshi Gupta

17440cookie-checkHow selective breeding has changed the behavior of dogs