Dogs are man’s best friend, but have you ever wondered why that is? A team of researchers studied why dogs show such affinity toward Human Beings while other animals are mostly scared of people. Scientists wanted to learn why dogs have a friendly nature and loyalty toward their owners and people in general and discovered that it may have to do with simple genetics.

How the research was conducted

Princeton University biologist, Bridget vonHoldt, has spent much of her life examining the reasons behind the relationship between human beings and dogs.

Almost seven years ago, she led a study which determined around 48,000 genetic differences between a dog and a wolf. However, one genetic mutation in dogs greatly interested vonHoldt, ScienceMag Org reported.

This mutation functioned similarly to the genetic mutation which causes Williams syndrome in human beings. People suffering from the syndrome were known to express familiarity with complete strangers and did not feel the natural fear of strangers like most humans do. This is when vonHoldt first considered the idea that the friendliness displayed by dogs toward humans may be due to this genetic factor, which was absent in wolves and other wild canine creatures.

Around three years back, vonHoldt came to know of Monique Udell, who is an Oregon State University psychologist, also focusing her research on the bond shared by dogs and humans.

Udell already possessed the blood samples of a wide variety of dogs and captured wolves that had undergone some behavioral tests to determine their response to people. Udell and vonHoldt analyzed the DNA from these blood samples and compared the genetic data to the results of the behavioral analysis conducted earlier.

What the results revealed

The behavioral studies showed that dogs spent more time looking at people then the captured wolves did. The DNA analysis further reinforced that the specific genetic mutation when present in a dog would cause it to be friendlier toward human beings. On the other hand, the small number of dogs and the wolves which did not have that specific mutation in their DNA did not tend to show any affinity toward people.

vonHoldt claimed that their research did not show how the dogs were domesticated in the past, but rather looks to reveal how domestication allowed the dogs to evolve into the friendlier and more likable creatures that they are today. This study also indicates that when ancient humans domesticated wolves, those creatures may also have had this same genetic material present in their DNA to allow for the domestication. However, other researchers claimed that larger research with a bigger sample size is required to conclusively prove these claims.