The genetics of behavior -- in all animals, including dogs -- is complex. While some genes have known associations with behaviors (such as the POMC mutation affecting food motivation in Labrador Retrievers), the genetic basis for many behaviors like herding, pointing, and retrieving are still being studied.
From testing hundreds of thousands of mixed breed and purebred dogs, we’ve learned that it isn’t uncommon for mixes to exhibit what many people think are breed-specific behaviors or traits. Some toy breed mixes might point, and some terrier mixes might have strong retrieving instincts. Often, these behaviors are less intense in mixes than they would be in breeds intentionally bred for these tasks, but they can be present nonetheless.
After all, remember that behaviors like herding and pointing were intentionally selected for over time in different breeds. We likely wouldn’t have these behaviors in purebred dogs today if they didn’t exist in the general dog population at some frequency. Embark is on the cutting edge of canine behavioral research with the goal of learning more about why dogs act the way they do. If you want to contribute, please be sure to fill out the Research Surveys on your account to tell us about your dog’s unique behaviors.