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Understanding Behavioral Problems in Dogs

Narrator: This is Science Today. If you own a dog with a behavioral disorder - such as noise phobia, separation anxiety or aggression, you may wonder if you're doing something wrong. But Steve Hamilton, a geneticist and psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, says it may be in their genes.

Hamilton : It's probably fairly common that dogs suffer from behavior disorders, much like in humans. My advice would be not to assume that it's something due to maltreatment necessarily or something that you're doing that may play a role. But also may be something that just happens to be occurring in this dog for a variety of reasons, including perhaps genetic endowment.

Narrator: Hamilton is co-leading the Canine Behavioral Genetics Project in an effort to better understand the genetics behind panic and anxiety-related disorders - not just in dogs, but in humans, too.

Hamilton : As a human psychiatrist and human geneticist, one of my long-term goals is to determine whether what we learn from the genetics of the dog can teach us something about the genetics of humans with regard to mental disorders.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.