Why Dogs Are Friendly

Yes, we know that they are but the science as to why this is nonetheless is fascinating!

Inevitably when you think about my cultural roots you would not be surprised to hear that I use the BBC News website as a key source of staying in touch with the world. But very rarely would I think of sharing a news item with you via these pages.

One of those rare exceptions greeted my eyes back on July 20th. It was an article published by Helen Briggs of the BBC under the Science & Environment news classification. I can’t imagine any reason why I can’t republish it here.


Why dogs are friendly – it’s written in their genes

By Helen Briggs – BBC News, 20 July 2017

Some wolves are more sociable than others.

Being friendly is in dogs’ nature and could be key to how they came to share our lives, say US scientists.

Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago.

During this time, certain genes that make dogs particularly gregarious have been selected for, according to research.

This may give dogs their distinctive personalities, including a craving for human company.

“Our finding of genetic variation in both dogs and wolves provides a possible insight into animal personality, and may even suggest similar genes may have roles in other domestic species (maybe cats even),” said Dr Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University.

The researchers studied the behaviour of domestic dogs, and grey wolves living in captivity. They carried out a number of tests of the animals’ skills at problem-solving and sociability.

Captive wolves gave humans only brief attention.

These showed that wolves were as good as dogs at solving problems, such as retrieving pieces of sausage from a plastic lunchbox.

Dogs, however, were much more friendly. They spent more time greeting human strangers and gazing at them, while wolves were somewhat aloof.

DNA tests found a link between certain genetic changes and behaviours such as attentiveness to strangers or picking up on social cues.

Similar changes in humans are associated with a rare genetic syndrome, where people are highly sociable.

Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Institutes of Health, who was a co-researcher on the study, said the information would be useful in studying human disease.

“This exciting observation highlights the utility of the dog as a genetic system informative for studies of human disease, as it shows how minor variants in critical genes in dogs result in major syndromic effects in humans,” she said.

Wolves playing at Yellowstone.

Dogs were domesticated from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

New story for domestication of dogs

This process began when wolves that were tolerant of humans sneaked into hunter gatherer camps to feed on food scraps.

Over the course of history, wolves were eventually tamed and became the dogs we know today, which come in all shapes and sizes.

The finding of genetic changes linked to sociability in dogs shows how their friendly behaviour might have evolved.

“This could easily play into the story then of how these wolves leave descendants that are also ‘friendlier’ than others, setting the path for domestication,” said Dr vonHoldt.

The research is published in the journal, Science Advances.

Follow Helen on Twitter.


When it comes to sociability in dogs, try this one for size!

Brandy – as pure as it gets!

14 thoughts on “Why Dogs Are Friendly

  1. Fascinating article – we have had a few rescue dogs who have had “poor starts” in life over the years. It interesting, that even though they have clearly had bad experiences with humans that they are still friendly (although conflicted at times). It takes time to win their trust.


    1. Emma, first, a very special welcome to this place.

      Yes, the majority of the dogs here are ex-rescues, not forgetting both the horses, and they all require time to learn to trust. But they put behind them those terrible experiences in a manner that we humans could never manage to emulate.

      Lovely to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting article. Wolves are such beautiful animals. And well what can I say about Brandy.? So handsome and photogenic. I once read that dogs are animals with plastic genes, meaning that many breeds have been created. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes which is astounding considering that dogs evolved from the wolf.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aren’t wolves fantastic animals! But then, I guess, are all animals. And as for Brandy ….. simply perfect. Brandy has been hugely instrumental in filling in the hole in my heart from losing Pharaoh.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad that Brandy has stepped up to the job. There was a reason and I think it was Jean, that first learned about Brandy but I might have that all wrong. He appears to be a honey of a dog.


      2. Yes, well remembered! Jeannie had gone to a local garage sale and seen Brandy, albeit not for sale, looking very disheartened curled up in the corner of the garage. Later, we returned together and asked if we might have him.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well he has certainly opened up his doggie heart since he arrived in April last year. And, as I intimated, since Pharaoh died Brandy has become as close a companion to me as one imagines a dog can be with a fella.

        Here’s an example. We are sleeping on our mattress that is on the bedroom floor, awaiting the new flooring to be completed. Last night seconds after I had turned out the bedside light, Brandy came up to my face and pushed his face into mine as if to wish me goodnight!


  3. Really enjoyed reading this Paul.. and found it really interesting how they compared wolves and dogs. And of course Brandy.. well what more can you say to that lovable face.. 🙂


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