Oxytocin and opioid receptor gene polymorphisms associated with greeting behavior in dogs

Eniko Kubinyi, Melinda Bence, Dora Koller, Michele Wan, Eniko Pergel, Zsolt Ronai, Maria Sasvari-Szekely, Ádám Miklósi

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Meeting humans is an everyday experience for most companion dogs, and their behavior in these situations and its genetic background is of major interest. Previous research in our laboratory reported that in German shepherd dogs the lack of G allele, and in Border collies the lack of A allele, of the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) 19208A/G single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was linked to increased friendliness, which suggests that although broad traits are affected by genetic variability, the specific links between alleles and behavioral variables might be breed-specific. In the current study, we found that Siberian huskies with the A allele approached a friendly unfamiliar woman less frequently in a greeting test, which indicates that certain polymorphisms are related to human directed behavior, but that the relationship patterns between polymorphisms and behavioral phenotypes differ between populations. This finding was further supported by our next investigation. According to primate studies, endogenous opioid peptide (e.g., endorphins) receptor genes have also been implicated in social relationships. Therefore, we examined the rs21912990 of the OPRM1 gene. Firstly, we found that the allele frequencies of Siberian huskies and gray wolves were similar, but differed from that of Border collies and German shepherd dogs, which might reflect their genetic relationship. Secondly, we detected significant associations between the OPRM1 SNP and greeting behavior among German shepherd dogs and a trend in Border collies, but we could not detect an association in Siberian huskies. Although our results with OXTR and OPRM1 gene variants should be regarded as preliminary due to the relatively low sample size, they suggest that (1) OXTR and OPRM1 gene variants in dogs affect human-directed social behavior and (2) their effects differ between breeds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1520
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - Sep 7 2017



  • Dog
  • Gene-behavior association
  • Greeting behavior
  • OPRM1
  • OXTR
  • Wolf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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