For the study, researchers compared the genomes of Doberman Pinschers with and without compulsive sucking behaviors.
Last spring, Julia Kamysz Lane blogged about a study that suggested a link between compulsive tail-chasing and high cholesterol in dogs. Now, Bark contributor Mark Derr reports for The New York Times on a study linking compulsive behavior in dogs—think: excessive licking, fence running, spinning, staring and more—to a gene for the first time. The discovery is important not simply for the estimated five to six million (!) dogs afflicted with obsessive behaviors but may prove beneficial to the 2.5 to 8 percent of the human population afflicted with related disorders. One more example of how our welfare is tied to dogs.
In particular, though, I’m glad that Derr stresses in his story the important role that environment plays in the development of compulsive behaviors, going so far as to say nurture outweighs genetic factors in some cases. Understanding the genetic piece may prove valuable in treating compulsive disorders in dogs (and people) someday, but it won’t be a substitute for our role in keeping our animals healthy and providing low-stress, low-anxiety environments.