Genetics and Aggression in Dogs

In this article, we’ll talk about how Dopamine and other neuropeptides are linked to aggression in
Dogs. We’ll also cover how genetics plays a role in learning and fear. These three factors all
affect the development of fear and aggression, but there’s also a connection between genetics
and learning. Let’s examine each in turn. And don’t worry, it won’t be a lengthy read!

Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates various functions in the brain, including sleepwake cycles, appetite, mood, impulse control, and learning. It is present in almost all species on earth, and the deficiency of dopamine in dogs is associated with increased aggression.

However, too much dopamine can have negative consequences, as well. Dogs that are aggressive also have higher levels of serotonin 1B receptors, which act as auto-receptors to regulate the release of serotonin.

Researchers have studied the genetics of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters involved in dog aggression. Polymorphisms in these genes have been associated with aggressive behavior in dogs, but genetics are not the only factor. Some breeds are more prone to aggression than others.

Several other genetic factors have been implicated in the
development of aggressive behaviors in dogs. The most prominent genetic factor that affects aggression in a dog is dopamine, which acts as a reward. However, dopamine does not cause aggression when administered to a dog.

Neuropeptides

Researchers have recently identified genetically selected genes that are associated with aggression in dogs. These genes have functions involving sexual reproduction, digestion, neurological processes, and cancer. 

These genes overlap with those selected in humans.
Interestingly, domestication of dogs has been associated with higher densities of humans, and these crowded conditions could have been a selective pressure. In such a case, the constant
need to reduce aggression may have led to positive selection of the genes that affect these behaviors.

Two neuropeptides have been implicated in aggression in dogs. Cholecystokinin and substance P are neuropeptides produced by the cholecystokinin system and are involved in the regulation
of verbal aggression in humans. Cholecystokinin tetrapeptides have been linked to several psychiatric disorders. They are also implicated in various emotional behaviors in humans.

Cholecystokinin-stimulated neurons in the amygdala are highly responsive to cholecystokinin and substance P. Cholecystokinin is also detected in a social defeat model and acts on
periaqueductal gray.

Genetics

A recent study linked genetic variations in four genes with aggressive behavior. These loci were located near the gene RASGEF1B. Dogs with these variations were more likely to be aggressive toward other dogs. The findings suggest that genetic variations in this gene are linked to specific traits, including fear and obesity. They also suggest that genetic variations that are less common in dogs are more likely to contribute to dangerous behavior. Genetic tests for dog aggression can help veterinarians diagnose dangerous behavior in their patients.


The genetics of behavioral traits have been extensively studied in dogs. In many cases, these behavioral variations are highly heritable. Using whole genomes from different breeds, researchers found that several genes are implicated in the development of aggressive behavior in dogs. However, their effects are often small. Other factors, such as socialization or past experiences, also influence phenotype expression. For this reason, genetic tests for dogs are
necessary to identify genes that cause aggression in dogs. 

Learning

Research into genes that control the expression of fear and aggression is accelerating. Several common variants are associated with behavior. Among these, LOC111091431 is linked to genes that control neurite outgrowth and neuronal migration during nerve regeneration. Genetic handles for these genes can accelerate research into fear and aggression in dogs. Learn more about how genetics affect dog behavior and health. Continue reading to find out how dogs’ behavior can be predicted using a gene-sequence analysis.

Although the term dominance has been thrown under the bus, new research suggests that dominance does not exist in dogs. Recent research suggests that dogs and free-range wolves do not share a strict pack hierarchy. In fact, fear and aggression are most often influenced by controlling resources. This theory suggests that dogs are motivated to continue their behavior if it makes them feel more confident. It also explains why dogs show aggressive behavior towards
the same species or people.

Conditioning

The background of aggression is complex, and the underlying cause of aggressive behavior is not completely understood. Researchers suspect that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to this tendency. Aggression is an undesirable trait, particularly in dogs that live with humans. A new study, however, has shown a link between genetic variations and aggression in dogs. Two polymorphisms in the DRD4 gene, one known as the VNTR polymorphism, and another known as the C/T substitution in the HTR2B gene, called ACRS-PCR, were identified. 121 dogs of various breeds were evaluated in the study.

In general, genetics play a significant role in shaping dog behavior. However, while 50 percent of dog behavior is determined by genes, the rest of the equation is made up of individual history, environment, and training. While combating an inherited impediment can be difficult, taking advantage of an inherited predisposition can be advantageous. 

For instance, if your dog is a guard dog, he will be more reactive towards strangers when you’re around. You can NOT out train genetics, even if you’ve done everything perfectly since they were a puppy. that is ok! understanding that genetics play a big part in dogs behavior and knowing how genetics work in the breed and or mix you own, will set you up for success in raising your dog. Dogs that are
genetically aggression doesn’t always mean a bag thing. It is something that can be managed 95% of the time. Consulting a trainer about genetic aggression or fear is the best route to go to understand how to manage it.

Here at Ridgeside K9 NC we have dealt with a lot of dogs with all types of aggression and have trainers with decades of experience. We understand the root of the issues and can formulate a realistic training plan for you and your dog!

More Dog Blog Articles

Halloween Howl

Top Tips for Keeping Your Pooch Safe and Sound! With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how

Read More »