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Gene linkage—Link between color and temperament?

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

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This post is in response to a question asked about whether dogs of a particular color make the best service and therapy dogs.

While I don’t know if the correlation between color and temperament is true, there is something called gene linkage, where genes are so close on a chromosome that they travel together. One of the basic laws of genetics is the law of independent assortment. When two individuals are mated, the genes recombine, with some traits coming from the mom and others from the dad. Using a card deck analogy, independent assortment means that each gene is “shuffled” separately from the other. So there’s one ”shuffle” for red genes, another for long hair, etc. Gene linkage is an exception to that. In gene linkage genes that are really close together on a chromosome tend to travel together. So for typical independent assortment, two genes are normally shuffled separately, in linkage, they aren’t and they stick together. Until we understood this, we suffered from the law of unintended consequences. Breeding for one trait could get us that trait well locked into a breed, but it could inadvertently drag along a disease trait, which can be disastrous.

In THEORY, this could be possible for a color-temperament link. But we don’t know this for sure at this point. However, there’s absolutely no evidence of the color-temperament linkage discussed here, but I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about linkage, since one of the most important things about it is that we need to be aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences when we try to breed for a singe trait.

The “consistency” so highly touted in closed stud books is rife with this issue, as evidenced by all of the health and temperament problems in so many closed-book breeds.


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