Female dogs expect the unexpected better than males?

girl with dog

Are female dogs better at spotting when things are not as they should be? I'm not sure whether the explanations are what they seem, but a recent study on dogs at the University of Vienna appears to show that female dogs are more able to notice changes than their male counterparts.

Corsin Müller and fellow researchers discovered that when a tennis sized ball was rolled behind a screen, and a similar but larger sized ball appeared at the other side (or vice-versa), female canine subjects stared at the different sized ball for longer than male canines. The males, by contrast, did not stare at the new sized ball any longer than they had stared at the same sized ball appearing.

You can watch the video here

The results are soon to be published in the forthcoming 'Biology of Letters' and researchers say that gender differences were unexpected. Nevertheless, Müller says they are not surprising. “For humans, there is plenty of evidence for all kinds of differences between men and women in cognitive processes,” Müller comments.

Müller also suggests that it might be that male dogs are not noticing the difference, or that they simply don't care.

Neutering does not appear to make a difference to the results, possibly indicating that gender differences are set at birth and remain unaffected by whether sex hormones are circulating at the time of the test.

Further discussions in the report suggest that whilst the dogs are not raised differently according to gender (which would otherwise have explained a difference in their learning), the female role is to raise and nurture offspring, therefore requiring a greater degree of vigilance.

It started me thinking about all sorts of things that come about in my work. Reactivity of female dogs compared to males for example. Are females more reactive and could this be because they notice more? Or are they more settled because they have a wider awareness when young? Are females better at reading our cues and signals when we train them?

Or is this just an overly complex study of something that is more simply explained?

Whatever the hypothesis, I am looking forward to further investigation!

Karen Wild www.karenwild.co.uk


Source: Science News Great (Dane) Minds don't think alike - May 21st, 2011; Vol.179 #11 (p. 11)

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