The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 2001
Research Theme: "A Study of Behavior-related Canine Genetics in Individual
Guide Dog Candidates"

By Chie Hashizume, Haruka Takakura. Prof. Benjamin L. Hart

The purpose of this research project was an investigation into the genetic
factors related to canine temperament. We began by testing 197 guide dog
candidates, which were divided into three groups: those who passed the guide dog aptitude examination, those who did not pass, and those who failed to qualify due to medical reasons alone. We then conducted an analysis of the behavioral evaluation of each group.

The dogs chosen as subjects for the study by Hashizume's research group were guide dog candidates raised by the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., located in the San Francisco Suburb Area, CA. By variety, 130 of the dogs chosen were Labradors, 25 were Golden Retrievers, 20 were mixtures of these two breeds, while 22 were German Shepherds, for a total of 197.

To begin with, we conducted analyses of the behavioral evaluations generated by each guide dog candidate's trainer, taking into consideration the scoring of the behavioral evaluation and whether the dog had passed the guide dog qualification exam. We then examined a section of the dog's DNA analogous to the position in human DNA of monoamin oxidase A (MAOA), which has been found to be associated with aggression in rodents, for the presence of genetic polymorphism.

"Up to now, scoring for both anxiety tendency and aggressiveness have been heavily weighted in the screening of dogs for appropriateness as guide animals. However, a statistical analysis of the distribution of behavioral evaluation figures showed that aggression scores in dogs that passed the qualification screening were significantly lower than those for dogs that did not pass. This result reflects the fact that guide dog qualification tests at the Guide Dogs For the Blind, Inc. places more importance on aggressiveness more than anxiety tendencies.

"Since previous reports have included varying results with respect to this point, we would like to move ahead with more thorough analysis of more detailed data. But the results of the genetic analysis showed no instances of polymorphism in the DNA segments under study. Thus, we intend to continue our search for behavior-related genetic material, expanding the extent of the DNA segments covered in the search, as well as the group of dogs under study."

This research project was the subject of the second annual scholarship, and was selected for the award in 1999. Due to a delay in the starting time of the study, the research report was presented to us one year later than planned.