Dog cognitive development: a longitudinal study across the first 2 years of life.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

While our understanding of adult dog cognition has grown considerably over the past 20 years, relatively little is known about the ontogeny of dog cognition. To assess the development and longitudinal stability of cognitive traits in dogs, we administered a battery of tasks to 160 candidate assistance dogs at 2 timepoints. The tasks were designed to measure diverse aspects of cognition, ranging from executive function (e.g., inhibitory control, reversal learning, memory) to sensory discrimination (e.g., vision, audition, olfaction) to social interaction with humans. Subjects first participated as 8-10-week-old puppies, and then were retested on the same tasks at ~ 21 months of age. With few exceptions, task performance improved with age, with the largest effects observed for measures of executive function and social gaze. Results also indicated that individual differences were both early emerging and enduring; for example, social attention to humans, use of human communicative signals, independent persistence at a problem, odor discrimination, and inhibitory control all exhibited moderate levels of rank-order stability between the two timepoints. Using multiple regression, we found that young adult performance on many cognitive tasks could be predicted from a set of cognitive measures collected in early development. Our findings contribute to knowledge about changes in dog cognition across early development as well as the origins and developmental stability of individual differences.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bray, EE; Gruen, ME; Gnanadesikan, GE; Horschler, DJ; Levy, KM; Kennedy, BS; Hare, BA; MacLean, EL

Published Date

  • March 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 24 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 311 - 328

PubMed ID

  • 33113034

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8035344

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1435-9456

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1435-9448

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10071-020-01443-7


  • eng