14th December 2012, 8:49am
Do cultural differences exist among dogs?
Dogs needed for study Although it is known how cultural identity affects behaviours among the human population, it is still unknown whether this notion can be applied to man’s best friend.

The answer may be just round the corner following research being carried out by three universities in the UK, Austria and Hungary.

The study aims to find out if cultural differences exist among dogs by looking at how dogs from different countries react to various problems.

The first two stages of the investigation have already taken place at the Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest and Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

The third and final partner, the University of Lincoln (UK), is now appealing for dog owners to bring their pets for a ‘play date’ where they will take part in new, mentally challenging experiences.

Researchers from the School of Life Sciences will then compare and contrast their reactions.

Dóra Szabó, the researcher appointed to carry out the investigations at the three institutions, said: “On the one hand we would like to find out whether we can produce the exact same kind of behavioural results in three different laboratories. Sometimes that is not possible and we cannot be sure whether this is because the tests are not being done in the same way or whether it may actually reflect cultural differences. These differences may be down to individual dog owner relationships as they will all behave differently.”

Professor Daniel Mills, from the University of Lincoln, added: “This collaboration is a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the dog-owner bond on cognitive performance and we are really keen for owners to help us, as the results could be very wide reaching implications for how we study things like the intelligence of animals in general.”

The test sessions are scheduled to take place on the University’s Riseholme campus between 10 January and 25 March, 2013.

The researchers are specifically looking for Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers and other medium and large sized purebred dogs such as Cocker Spaniels and Huskies, due to the size and weight of toys being used. They must also be kept as pets, mainly indoors, be at least one-year-old and have the potential to be motivated to work for food.

If you and your dog would like to take part in the study please contact Dóra Szabó by e-mailing szaboodoora@gmail.com
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