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      Association between coat colour and the behaviour of Australian Labrador retrievers

      research-article
      ,
      Canine Genetics and Epidemiology
      BioMed Central
      Labrador, Behaviour, Colour, MC1R, TYRP1

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          Abstract

          Background

          Making assumptions regarding temperament and intelligence based on the physical appearance of dogs can be a conscious or unconscious human act. Labrador retrievers with chocolate-coloured coats are anecdotally considered to be less trainable and more hyperactive and aggressive than their black or yellow peers. To test these assertions, we analysed the owner-reported behavioural traits of Labradors in relation to both their observable coat colour, and their TYRP1 and MC1R genotypes.

          Results

          We used the results of an owner-based questionnaire to determine scores for 21 behavioural traits and test whether these scores varied with coat colour ( n = 225). Familiar dog aggression was the only trait that was found to vary significantly with coat colour ( P = 0.013). Yellow Labradors had a higher score than chocolate Labradors, even when corrected for multiple testing ( P = 0.021).

          We repeated the analyses for a subset of 63 Labradors with available genotyping data for the genes (MC1R and TYRP1) that are known to determine the primary coat colours in Labradors. Familiar dog aggression scores varied with both the observed coat colour and MC1R genotype. Dogs homozygous for MC1R recessive allele (with yellow coat colour) scored higher for familiar dog aggression than either black or chocolate Labradors. However, no association maintained significance when incorporating Bonferroni correction. Dog trainability scores decreased additively as the number of recessive brown alleles for TYRP1 increased. This allelic association was independent of the observable coat colour. Dogs homozygous for the brown allele were considered less trainable than dogs with no brown alleles ( P = 0.030).

          Conclusions

          Our results do not support that chocolate-coloured Labradors are more hyperactive or aggressive than either black or yellow Labradors. Trainability scores varied with TYRP1 genotype but not the observable coat colour. Further validation is required.

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          Most cited references16

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          Pleiotropy in the melanocortin system, coloration and behavioural syndromes.

          In vertebrates, melanin-based coloration is often associated with variation in physiological and behavioural traits. We propose that this association stems from pleiotropic effects of the genes regulating the synthesis of brown to black eumelanin. The most important regulators are the melanocortin 1 receptor and its ligands, the melanocortin agonists and the agouti-signalling protein antagonist. On the basis of the physiological and behavioural functions of the melanocortins, we predict five categories of traits correlated with melanin-based coloration. A review of the literature indeed reveals that, as predicted, darker wild vertebrates are more aggressive, sexually active and resistant to stress than lighter individuals. Pleiotropic effects of the melanocortins might thus account for the widespread covariance between melanin-based coloration and other phenotypic traits in vertebrates.
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            Development and validation of a questionnaire for measuring behavior and temperament traits in pet dogs.

            To develop and validate a questionnaire to assess behavior and temperament traits of pet dogs. Cross-sectional survey of dog owners. Animals-1,851 dogs belonging to clients of a veterinary teaching hospital or members of national breed clubs and 203 dogs examined by canine behavior practitioners because of behavior problems. Owners were asked to complete a questionnaire consisting of 152 items eliciting information on how dogs responded to specific events and situations in their usual environment. Data from completed questionnaires were subjected to factor analysis, and the resulting factors were tested for reliability and validity. Factor analysis yielded 11 factors from 68 of the original questionnaire items that together accounted for 57% of the common variance in questionnaire item scores. Reliability was acceptable for all but 1 of these factors. Behavior problems in 200 of the 203 dogs with behavior problems could be assigned to 7 diagnostic categories that matched 7 of the factors identified during factor analysis of questionnaire responses. Dogs assigned to particular diagnostic categories had significantly higher scores for corresponding questionnaire factors than did those assigned to unrelated diagnostic categories, indicating that the factors were valid. Validity of the remaining 4 factors could not be examined because of a lack of information on dogs with behavior problems related to these factors. Findings suggest that the resulting 68-item questionnaire is a reliable and valid method of assessing behavior and temperament traits in dogs. The questionnaire may be useful in screening dogs for behavior problems and in evaluating the clinical effects of various treatments for behavior problems.
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              Breed-typical behaviour in dogs—Historical remnants or recent constructs?

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                diane.vanrooy@sydney.edu.au
                claire.wade@sdyney.edu.au
                Journal
                Canine Genet Epidemiol
                Canine Genet Epidemiol
                Canine Genetics and Epidemiology
                BioMed Central (London )
                2052-6687
                30 November 2019
                30 November 2019
                2019
                : 6
                Affiliations
                ISNI 0000 0004 1936 834X, GRID grid.1013.3, The University of Sydney, ; Camperdown, NSW 2006 Australia
                Article
                78
                10.1186/s40575-019-0078-z
                6884874
                e7179697-f49e-4235-a12a-fdb9b96fc1ab
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funding
                Funded by: Australian Pet Welfare Fund
                Categories
                Research
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2019

                labrador,behaviour,colour,mc1r,tyrp1
                labrador, behaviour, colour, mc1r, tyrp1

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