Best of 2016 // #89: Ankle Biters Solved


A huge study into the roots of canine aggression and fear responses has indemnified genetic markers that predispose certain dogs towards such behaviours.  The researchers of the study went on, however, to suggest the knowledge gleaned in the study could be used to treat those of us humans with anxiety.

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The study was published in the August edition of B M C Genomics, and it compared pet owner’s reports of aggression with genetic data from over 30 purebred lines of canine to indentify the 16 genome regions in question.  The team also noted two clusters of those genome regions seemed to control different kinds of aggression: one was linked with aggression towards strangers or strange dogs and the other with aggression to the owner and other pets in the same home.

Dachshunds were notably prone to one of the genetic variants that the study authors are calling ‘freak biology’.  The study noted the correlation between low-riding dog bodies and increased predisposition to snarling, snapping and biting.

Every year, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the United States – understanding why they bite is a priority amongst public health experts.

Study co-author Carlos Alvarez cautioned a reasoned approach, noting it is unfair to characterize all dogs with these genetic variants as being aggressive.  Instead, Alvarez hopes the research leads to better testing, diagnosis, and better treatment for dogs and their human friends.

By knowing which genetic markers pose an increased risk of aggression, Alvarez thinks it could be possible to determine which cells are responsible and target them – saying that if it works in dogs, it could very well work in humans.

There’s 99 more stories from 2016.  Check out the Best of 2016 series here

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