Scientists Find Key ‘Friendliness’ Genes That Distinguish Dogs From Wolves

A 17-year-old Fukushima earthquake evacuee hugs her dog that will have to be looked after by friends while she goes into a shelter on March 23, 2011. (Credit: Go Takayama / AFP / Getty Images)

Your dog is basically a super social wolf, and scientists may have found the gene that makes him want to cuddle with you.

A new study shows that friendliness in dogs is associated with the same genes that make some people hyper-social.

The study found that structural variations in three genes on chromosome 6 are correlated with how much canines socialize with humans. An analysis of DNA from two dozen animals revealed that these genes look very different in dogs than they do in wolves.

Mutations in the same genes are also linked with a rare developmental disorder in humans called Williams-Beuren Syndrome, or WBS. People with WBS are typically hyper-social, meaning they form bonds quickly and show great interest in other people, including strangers. Other symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities as well as cardiovascular problems.