Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Genetics of Trainability?

From the Big Book of the Obvious comes this chapter, which first appears in Applied Animal Behavior Science of June 2011

Based on an on-line survey of 5,733 dog owners that spoke German (yes, this is what passes for science these days), the authors grouped 98 breeds of dogs by averaging their scores in terms of trainability, boldness, calmness and dog sociability.
We found that two of the behaviour traits (trainability and boldness) significantly differed both among the conventional and the genetic breed groups.

Using the conventional classiļ¬cation we revealed that Herding dogs were more trainable than Hounds, Working dogs, Toy dogs and Non-sporting dogs; Sporting dogs were also more trainable than Nonsporting dogs.

In parallel, Terriers were bolder than Hounds and Herding dogs.

Regarding genetic relatedness, breeds with ancient Asian or African origin (Ancient breeds) were less
trainable than breeds in the Herding/sighthound cluster and the Hunting breeds.

Breeds in the Mastiff/terrier cluster were bolder than the Ancient breeds, the breeds in the Herding/sighthound cluster and the Hunting breeds.

The thigh-slapper for me was this line:  "The classification of breeds according to historical function was based on the internationally recognized system of the American Kennel Club." 

Right.  This is a bit like saying:  "We asked a rodeo clown how to grade cuts of beef." 

So what are we to make of this "study"?  Not much. 

It is really not a study of dogs at all, but of dogs as seen by their biased owners, with the results viewed through the prism of a Kennel Club rating scheme.

Does that mean it is wrong?  No, of course not.  But the study does not tell us much, does it?  What was the question this study was crafted to answer?   It does not appear there was one.  Instead, the authors crafted a questionnaire, ran the answers to the questionnaire through a computer in order to extrude some numbers and data clustering, then slapped the label of "science" on the whole thing.  

Weak knowledge of dogs on the front end, combined with weak thinking about the questions to be answered in the middle, and the end result is trifling answers cranked out the back end.

1 comment:

Scott Linden Outdoors said...

"trifling answers cranked out the back end."

How could you resist the obvious next line:

"where it logically should originate."