Epigenetics and problems of dog behavior - what and why you need to know?
Speaking about the problems of dog behavior, about congenital and acquired, one cannot but mention such a thing as epigenetics.
Why are genomic studies of dogs important?
A dog is a very interesting object for genomic research, because it is larger in size than a mouse, moreover, more than a mouse or rat, it looks like a person. But still, this is not a person, which means that you can draw lines and make control crosses, and then draw analogies with a person.
Sophia Baskina at the conference “Pet's Behavior - 2018” mentioned that today there are about 360 identical genetic diseases of a dog and a person, however, every day there are results of new studies that prove that there is more in common between us and our pets than it might seem on first glance.
The genome is huge - it contains 2.5 billion pairs of nucleotides. Therefore, there are a lot of mistakes possible when researching it. The genome is an encyclopedia of your whole life, where each gene is responsible for some kind of protein. And each gene consists of many pairs of nucleotides. DNA chains are tightly “packed” into chromosomes.
There are genes that we need at the moment, and there are those that we do not need right now. And they are, as it were, stored in a "preserved form" until the right moment, in order to appear under certain conditions.
What is epigenetics and how is it related to dog behavior problems?
Epigenetics determines which genes are now being “read” and affect, inter alia, the behavior of dogs. Although, of course, epigenetics applies not only to dogs.
An example of the “work” of epigenetics is the problem of obesity in humans. When a person experiences severe hunger, certain genes associated with metabolism "wake up" in him, the purpose of which is to accumulate everything that enters the body and not die of hunger. These genes work for 2 to 3 generations. And if the next generations do not starve, these genes again “fall asleep”.
Such “falling asleep” and “waking up” genes are something that it was very difficult for geneticists to “catch” and explain until they discovered epigenetics.
The same applies, for example, to stress in animals. If a dog experiences very severe stress, its body, in order to adapt to new conditions, begins to work differently, and these changes persist during the life of 1 - 2 next generations. So if we study a behavioral problem, which is a way to deal with an extremely stressful situation, it may turn out that this problem is inherited, but only in the coming generations.
All this can complicate the pedigree if we talk about some problems of behavior associated with experiencing severe stress. Is this a congenital problem? Yes: the mechanism of how the body will cope with stress is already in place in the body, but “sleeps” - until some events from the outside “woke it up”. However, if the next two generations live in good conditions, problematic behavior will not appear in the future.
It is important to know when you select a puppy and study the pedigrees of its parents.And competent and responsible breeders, knowing about epigenetics, can track what experience generations of dogs receive and how this experience affects their behavior.