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Dog attention and cooperation with the owner: preliminary results about brachycephalic dogs

Angelo Gazzano, Claudio Lauria, Michele Ducci, Claudio Sighieri


Neoteny is one way of achieving paedomorphosis, where somatic development is slowed down, but sexual maturity stays on ancestral time-course, resulting in a sexually mature descendant adult that is relatively juvenile with respect to its immediate ancestor.

The neoteny thus interferes on many aspects of the biology of the dog, giving rise to many canine breeds differing in physical and behavioral characteristics.

Dogs with brachycephalic or dolichocephalic morphology are considered less trainable than mesomorphic breeds. Brachycephalic breeds are considered neotenic because the development of the muzzle is blocked at a very early stage with respect to the final result of the wolf.

The aim of the research was to determine whether there is a difference between brachycephalic and dolichocephalic breeds with regard to the motivation to cooperate with the owner.

For the research have been used 17 dogs, divided into 2 groups (brachycephalic and dolichocephalic). The two groups of dogs were subjected to two behavioral tests. The first consisted in the recovery of food from a container fitted with a cap, while the second was to recover the food tied to a rope and positioned in a wire mesh cage.

Statistical analysis of the data showed a significant difference between the dogs of group 1 and group 2.

The dogs in group 2 turn a greater number of glances to the owner in test 1 (Z = 2.39, p = 0.017) and in test 2 (Z = 2.39, p = 0.017). Regarding the latency of the gaze, a statistically significant difference is detectable in test 1 where the dogs of group 1 take more time to turn the gaze to the owner (Z = 2.26, p = 0.024) than those of group 2. Instead a statistically significant difference with respect to the latency of the look in the second test between the two groups of animals (Z = 1.88, p = 0.060) does not exist.

The results of the present study seem to support the hypothesis that brachycephalic dogs show a different behavior compared with dolichocephalic ones; they in fact turn a lower number of glances to the owner and have a longer latency to look him when unable to complete the task. The dog trainability seems, therefore, to be affected by the morphological selection conducted in the past on different breeds.

However, given the small number of subjects tested, further researches will need to provide new evidence to support the hypothesis that the brachycephalic dogs are less trainable than dolichocephalic, at least with regard to the execution of specific tasks.

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