There has been some recent research which suggests that we might be right when we refer to our dogs as “Insanely friendly.” Have you heard of Williams-Beuren Syndrome?
Clinical psychologists who treat humans refer to it as Williams Syndrome. It is a sort of friendliness mutation in humans. It is rather rare, maybe affecting one out of every 10,000-20,000 people. There are some physical characteristics, such as elf-like facial features, and people with Williams Syndrome also seem to have some cognitive difficulties when it comes to focusing on problems. But the most interesting feature of this mental condition are the social-emotional behaviors – they seem to lack any kind of social inhibition. In other words, they act as if they love everybody. They enthusiastically seek the company of others, are kind-spirited, empathize with others, are caring and forgiving. They don’t seem to have a normal level of fear when meeting strangers, and tend to run up to and hug completely unfamiliar people. The technical term for their behavior is hypersociability or pathologically friendly.
A series of articles that have come out over the past three or so years, made up of a team of investigators from Princeton, Oregon State University and others, noticed the similarity between the extremely friendly behavior of dogs and the behaviors of people with Williams-Beuren syndrome.
The investigators know that Williams-Beuren Syndrome is a genetic problem. It is due to the deletion of part or all of a section of DNA on chromosome 7 in human beings. It includes about 29 genes. This same sequence appears on chromosome 6 in dogs. The team looked for structural changes in that string of genes, such as deletions, insertions or transpositions of DNA to other locations. The testing showed that the hypersocial and friendly dogs had DNA disruptions in the relevant regions, specifically, the most significant disruptions were on the gene that is associated with a protein called GTF21. Higher levels of disruption in that critical region of the chromosome were associated with the most social dogs. Dogs with a lack of change in that gene seemed to be standoffish and more distant and aloof.
In other words, the researchers concluded that at the genetic disruption that produces Williams-Beuren Syndrome in people, which we define as a “deviant mental condition,” has now become ‘normal’ in dogs and accounts for their persistent friendliness towards humans. It’s also likely that this genetic condition is a contributor toward producing the personality type which allows us to domesticate dogs in the first place and for them to form an affectionate bond with humans. Put simply, it means that your suggestion that dogs are “insanely friendly” might not be far from the truth.”
This explains so very much about my new puppy!! Her enthusiasm, friendliness and love for, well, everyone, is slightly over the top, but who doesn’t like a wet kiss from a stranger’s dog? Yikes!
#overly friendly #puppylove #insanedogs #insanely friendly #Williams-
*This article is written based on the science presented by Stanley Coren, contributor to Modern Dog Magazine. You can read this article in its entirety in the on-line version of Modern Dog Magazine.