Are dogs satisfied with just being with people?

Animal life

Dogs don't seem enthusiastic when people talk to them. They long for something different, reveals a new study. Researchers also looked at IQ tests for puppies and more.

It wasn't long ago that a study made a name for itself, which at first glance seemed to show that cats tolerate rather than appreciate being petted by people. After this news quickly got around and upset cat owners around the world, the study authors stepped in and corrected the whole thing. Recently another study has appeared that has what it takes to shake the worldview of animal owners to their very foundations: dogs, write Erica Feuerbacher from the University of Florida and Clive Wynne from Arizona State University in the specialist journal “Behavioral Processes” , always want to be caressed. Obviously, they can do without conversations and verbal praise.

The scientists first had shelter dogs and privately held dogs interact with people - both strangers and the owner. The human test participants delivered words of praise and pats. In all “settings”, regardless of whether the owner or a stranger encountered the dog, the dogs were more interested in being petted than in listening to people. Next, the study authors measured the time dogs spent around a person; the person either offered to stroke and talk, only spoke words of praise without any other interaction, or just stroked without a word. The dogs valued the silent petting the most. They were so enthusiastic about it that they used the three minutes that the experimental setup allowed for it to the full and wanted to be petted even more afterwards. "Verbal praise had just as little effect on the dogs' behavior as they were looking for humans as it was when no interaction was offered," the researchers concluded. So dogs don't want to talk, they want to cuddle.

Silent closeness is okay (photo dpa)

Also something else seems to have been completely wrongly assessed by dog-loving people: The criteria according to which a puppy is selected when someone buys a dog should probably be reconsidered. The dog books are full of tips on what to look for when bringing a young dog into the house. Of course, this also includes race, age and other details. Especially often, however, there is the advice that one should carefully observe how the puppies in a litter behave when they are seen for the first time. There are overzealous and distant puppies, but also shy and fearful ones. The middle is the right choice: an interested and affectionate but not overly stormy young dog who appears emotionally stable. That’s the theory. Scientists working with Stefanie Riemer and Friederike Range from the University of Vienna have now checked in the specialist journal “PLoS One” how great the predictive power of behavioral tests that are carried out in puppyhood is. The scientists initially included 99 Border Collie puppies in their study, which they examined at the breeder's two to ten days old using a neonatal test, which is also used by dog ​​trainers who select animals for specific purposes, for example to give puppies find who can be trained to be guide dogs. The puppies were placed on a sheet after they had been separated from their mother for the time of the test. The scientists recorded the puppy's behavior, how much he vocalized and how far he moved on the sheet divided into squares. Then it was estimated how hard the puppy suckled by one of the participating researchers triggering the suckling reflex of the respective animal by tickling it on the roof of the mouth with his finger.

In a second run, a few young dogs were added, the authors tested a total of 134 puppies between the ages of 40 and 50 days, still at the breeder's. They had each dog explore an unfamiliar space, then made contact, talked to the animal and involved it in a game with a stuffed animal. One of the investigators then placed the puppy on its back and restrained it in this position with both hands for a few moments. In addition, an examination at the vet was simulated and the dog was confronted with a battery-operated paper bag that was moving.

All dogs were sold to private owners. At the age of one and a half to two years, 50 of them took part in a scientifically developed test for adult dogs in the Clever Dog Lab in Vienna. The keepers were involved. Among other things, the dogs were confronted with a battery-powered toy dog ​​and had to fetch a tennis ball. In all tests, it was recorded how intensely the dogs explored, how close they dared to approach unknown objects, how active they were, whether they attempted to escape, whether they defended themselves, whether they hunted objects, whether they made contact with the test supervisors and how intensively.

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Daredevil puppy, wild adult dog?


Apparently, trainers who want to select workhorses with the help of such tests have illusions: The scientists from Vienna came to the conclusion that behavior tests in puppyhood are limited in their predictive power with regard to behavior in adulthood. Only the exploration behavior of the animals in the second test, the puppy test, was correlated with the results of the third test with the adult dogs. The test for newborn dogs in particular had little predictive power; the animals later developed in an unpredictable manner. Scientists acknowledge that, in turn, other studies have shown that some negative extremes in dog behavior appear to be predictable early on. However, they themselves could not establish such connections and diagnose a clear need for research in the field.

Veterinarians from the United States and Germany dealt with a completely different topic, but one that affects more and more animals and their owners, in two studies: They examined how owners cope with the treatment of chronic diseases in their animals. For a study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, an international team of veterinarians interviewed 834 dog and cat owners whose animals were suffering from diabetes. 97 percent of the dogs and 82 percent of the cats received regular insulin by injection. 87 percent of the dogs and 73 percent of the cats were even given insulin twice a day, and most of the animals were also prescribed a special diet. After all, 66 percent of the cat owners, but only half of the dog owners, were satisfied with the results that were achieved with the long-term therapy. Most of the owners also found the therapy very expensive.

A team led by Melanie Wergin from the Small Animal Clinic at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich investigated the question of how keepers assess the quality of life of pets that are receiving radiation therapy because of cancer in the specialist magazine “Tierärztliche Praxis”. 70 pet owners took part; their animals were treated at the university small animal clinic in Munich. 60 percent were of the opinion that their animals were better off because of the radiation, while 19 percent observed a deterioration in quality of life. Almost 90 percent would have opted for radiation therapy again - although it was also perceived as time-consuming and expensive. Wergin's study can also be read as further proof of how close the relationship between many owners and their animals has become. This is also evidenced by the growing interest in behavioral research, which taps again into knowledge that has long been perceived as secured. The fact that dogs are by no means solid personalities as puppies is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle; Currently, all over the world interesting facts about dogs are being published in specialist journals, which despite thousands of years of domestication have apparently remained a largely unknown creature. However, the new statements are not always as absolute as they appear at first glance. Erica Feuerbacher, who had just found out that dogs prefer to be petted and less eager to listen to people, had reported a few months earlier in the "Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior" a study according to which dogs prefer food when they are between petting and Can choose lining. That was true of most dogs, not all, mind you. Whether the dog preferred to be petted or turned to the bowl also had something to do with how familiar he was with the person being petted and how socially isolated or involved the animal was in his daily life.


Keywords: dogs, cats, behavioral science, veterinary medicine
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Dogs Don't Want Conversation: Findings From New Animal Studies

By Christina Hucklenbroich

Dogs don't seem enthusiastic when people talk to them. They long for something different, reveals a new study. Researchers also looked at IQ tests for puppies and more.

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