Attention Changes in the Course of a Dog’s Life Found Similar to Those in Humans

Dogs are known to be man's best friend. No other pet has adjusted to man's lifestyle as has this four-legged animal. Scientists at the Messerli Research Institute at the Vetmeduni Vienna, in Austria, have been the first to investigate the evolution of dogs' attentiveness in the course of their lives and to what extent they resemble man in this regard. The outcome: dogs' attentional and sensorimotor control developmental trajectories are very similar to those found in humans. The results were published on February 7, 2014 in an open-access article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Dogs are individual personalities, possess awareness, and are particularly known for their learning capabilities, or trainability. To learn successfully, they must display a sufficient quantity of attention and concentration. However, the attentiveness of dogs' changes in the course of their lives, as it does in humans. The lead author Dr. Lisa Wallis and her colleagues investigated 145 border collies aged 6 months to 14 years in the Clever Dog Lab at the Vetmeduni Vienna and determined, for the first time, how attentiveness changes in the entire course of a dog's life using a cross-sectional study design. To determine how rapidly dogs of various age groups pay attention to objects or humans, the scientists performed two tests. In the first situation, the dogs were confronted with a child's toy suspended suddenly from the ceiling. The scientists measured how rapidly each dog reacted to this occurrence and how quickly the dogs became accustomed to it. Initially all dogs reacted with similar speed to the stimulus, but older dogs lost interest in the toy more rapidly than younger ones did. In the second test situation, a person known to the dog entered the room and pretended to paint the wall.
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