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The pet dogs ability for learning from a human demonstrator in a detour task is independent from the breed and age

Péter Pongrácz , Ádám Miklósi, Viktória Vida and Vilmos Csányi

Revue : Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, Budapest, H-1117 Hungary

There are many indications and much practical knowledge about the different tasks which various breeds of dogs are selected for. Correspondingly these different breeds are known to possess different physical and mental abilities. We hypothesized that commonly kept breeds will show differences in their problem solving ability in a detour task around a V-shaped fence, and also, that breed differences will affect their learning ability from a human demonstrator, who demonstrates a detour around the fence. Subjects were recruited in Hungarian pet dog schools. We compared the results of the 10 most common breeds in our sample when they were tested in the detour task without human demonstration. There was no significant difference between the latencies of detour, however, there was a trend that German Shepherd dogs were the quickest and Giant Schnauzers were the slowest in this test. For testing the social learning ability of dogs we formed three breed groups ("utility", "shepherd" and "hunting"). There were no significant differences between these, all the breed groups learned equally well from the human demonstrator. However, we found that dogs belonging to the "shepherd" group looked back more frequently to their owner than the dogs in the "hunting" group. Further, we have found that the age of pet dogs did not affect their social learning ability in the detour task. Our results showed that the pet status of a dog has probably a stronger effect on its cognitive performance and human related behaviour than its age or breed. These results emphasize that socialization and common activities with the dog might overcome the possible breed differences, if we give the dogs common problem solving, or social learning tasks.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 3.2005

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