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New OSU study reveals dog's breed and hunting instincts can shape behavior
Researchers at Oregon State University recently published a study that found a dog’s breed can influence how well it responds to human commands.
The study, published in this month’s issue of Animal Behavior, reported that dogs bred for certain predatory traits may be more likely to follow human gestures than dogs lacking the traits.
“The more we know about the predatory behavioral tendencies of dogs, the better we can predict how successful they might be with humans in different home and working environments,” said lead author Monique Udell in an article about the study by Daniel Robison. “This may allow us to make better placement, ownership and training decisions in the future.”
To conduct the study, Udell and fellow researchers tested three breeds that have been used for specific purposes: herding, hunting and guarding livestock.
The researchers tested the dogs by pointing to one of two identical empty cans. If the dog approached the can to which the researcher pointed, the dog would be rewarded with food. Each test was repeated 10 times.
Researchers concluded that each breed acted upon its natural predatory instincts to eye, stalk, chase and consume prey triggered by movement (the human hand pointing) to choose the can.
Border collies, the herding dogs used in the study, chose the correct can in more than 85 percent of the tests, according to the study. The OSU scientists believe the border collies were so successful because they were bred specifically for eye-stalk-chase behavior, hunting traits they likely inherited from wolves.
Airedale terriers also did well in the tests, choosing the correct can 70 percent of the time. The breed tends to respond very well to movement and is driven to follow it, the researchers say.
“These breeds are perceived to have an uncanny ability to read people, like when they anticipate owners taking them for a walk,” says Udell, director of the OSU Human-Animal Interaction Lab and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
Anatolian shepherds, a breed typically used to guard livestock, comprised the third breed in the study. They approached the can that the human pointed to an average of less than 50 percent of the time, choosing it no more often than if by chance.
According to Udell, their behavior is also consistent with their breeding because the dogs were bred to protect, rather than chase, livestock. With additional training, however, the dogs were capable of learning to follow human gestures.
The study indicates that dogs are still capable of learning behaviors to which they are not predisposed, but it could take a bit more time and training.
Read the study online here.
Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences
April 20, 2017 - May 1, 2017
from OSU Today 04/10/17 Article on the "Human Animal Interactions" research by Dr. Monique Udell, Asst. Prof.
November 9, 2016 - January 9, 2017