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A new study tells us to hold the stereotypes on dog breeds


The personalities we sometimes ascribe to dogs may be mostly in our minds, not in their genes. AP reported on a study this week in the journal Science that said a dog's breed doesn't really contribute much to their personality. Golden Retrievers don't necessarily fetch. Beagles and huskies don't necessarily howl. Dachshunds don't necessarily speak with a German accent. Wait - I think I knew that.

There is a huge amount of behavioral variation in every breed, said study co-author and University of Massachusetts geneticist Elinor Karlsson. At the end of the day, every dog really is an individual. The study notes that humans began to breed dogs about 160 years ago to try to pass on characteristics like the color and texture of their coats. But that's all just cosmetics. Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan, told the AP the correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much lower than most expected.

Our French poodle, Daisy, sat on my lap as I wrote this and told me she's glad the stereotype of French poodles as slightly snooty Gallic snobs is scientifically unmerited. Then she took a sip of wine from her bowl and said, ah, you call this Beaujolais?


GEORGE CLINTON: (Singing) Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah, bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah. Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah, bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.