Going to the dogs: What can shy dogs teach us about longevity?

May 13, 2010

According to a new study by a Quebec research team, there are strong correlations between dog breeds' typical personalities, how long they live, and how much food they eat.

Through domestication, humans unwittingly initiated an artificial selection experiment on personality. We know that breeders selected individual for reproduction based not only on but also on specific behavioral traits - such as activity, aggressiveness, and docility - to shape each breed to a specific task. As a result, some breeds excel in tracking while others excel in herding, guarding, fighting, or human companionship. Other traits, such as longevity or , were presumably not targeted for selection. So the correlations obtained suggest that metabolism and lifespan changed as by-products of selection on personality traits. These connections between behavior, metabolism, and longevity represent greatly what is predicted by the "pace-of-life" syndrome hypothesis.

A team led by Vincent Careau, a PhD student at University of Sherbrooke, gathered data on many aspects of dog biology published in disparate fields of study such as psychology, longevity, and veterinary research. The information was well known in the respective research domains, yet they were never put together. By doing so, the authors show that obedient breeds - on average - live longer than disobedient breeds. They also show that aggressive breeds have higher energy expenditure. The late Don Thomas said, "It is hard to imagine how an aggressive personality could be adaptive if it lacked the energetic and metabolic machinery to back up the threats. Simply put, 100 pound weaklings don't kick sand in weight-lifters' faces and survive in nature."

This study contributes to the growing body of research revealing that personality is related to many crucial aspects of an animal's life - such as its energy needs, growth rate, age of first reproduction, and lifespan - and takes us a step closer to understanding the evolutionary causes and consequences of different personality types. This study hints at the existence of underlying genetic linkages between , metabolism, and longevity—meaning that selection for also invokes unintentional results on energetic and life history traits.

Explore further: Aging white lion euthanized at Ohio zoo

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers identify personality traits

Apr 03, 2009

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine's (BUSM) New England Centenarian Study have noted specific personality traits associated with healthy aging and longevity amongst the children of centenarians. The work ...

Personality influences reproductive success

Mar 25, 2009

A new study published in the Journal of Personality reveals that personality at adolescence predicts reproductive success later in life. The study findings showed that male and female teens with socially dominant personalities were m ...

On the move: Personality influences migration patterns

Sep 24, 2008

When meeting someone for the first time, the second question that is usually asked (following "what's your name?") is "where do you live?". Until recently, it was not apparent just how revealing that answer may be. Although ...

Personalities judged by physical appearance alone

Dec 10, 2009

Observers were able to accurately judge some aspects of a stranger's personality from looking at photographs, according to a study in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSBP), the official monthl ...

Why some couples look alike

Feb 11, 2006

Facial characteristics can be indicative of personality traits and may be why some couples may look similar, says a University of Liverpool study.

Studies suggest males have more personality

Nov 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Males have more pronounced personalities than females across a range of species - from humans to house sparrows - according to new research. Consistent personality traits, such as aggression ...

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

Dec 19, 2014

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.