If you had a dog growing up, there's a good chance you'll own one as an adult — but is that because of your experience or your genetic makeup?
A team of Swedish and British scientists studied 35,035 sets of twins from the Swedish Twin Registry to find out. They compared that data to information about dog ownership from national dog registries and found a strong connection between genetics and the likelihood of owning a dog.
"We were surprised to see that a person's genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog," says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and professor in molecular epidemiology in an Uppsala University press release.
"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."
In the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers conclude, "we show evidence of a strong genetic contribution to dog ownership in adulthood."
Other avenues to explore
This evidence may point them down an interesting path that can uncover some long-awaited answers. They write, "In view of the deep history of animal domestication (the first and oldest being the dog) and our long and changing relationship with them, this evidence may be an important first step in unraveling some of the most fundamental and largely unanswered questions regarding animal domestication - i.e. how and why?"
The results also suggest there could be a link between the genetic propensity toward dog ownership and the health benefits of owning a pet.
Says co-author Carri Westgarth, lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool, "These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied."