Dogs’ desire to play overrides most of their other instincts

May 4th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 4 (ANI): A new study has suggested that dogs are so driven to play that these urges can overtake other important instincts that they have.

According to a report in Discovery News, the study found out that socialized canines don’t even seem to care whom they play with, as long as the person plays by the same rules and general manner established by the dog’s owner during prior play sessions.

“It could mean that if, over time, the dog and its owner develop a routine of games, the dog could generalize these behavior routines to other play situations with another unfamiliar person, and the dog is less prone to misunderstanding human intentions,” lead author Lilla Toth told Discovery News.

Toth, a researcher in the Department of Ethology at Hungary’s Eotvos Lorand University, and her colleagues recruited 68 adult dogs of varying breeds for the study.

The dogs were all classified as family pets because they had gone through obedience and agility classes, they lived in their owners’ homes, and they were regularly walked and otherwise cared for by their owners.

The scientists had each dog play both a fetch ball game and a rag tug-of-war game with its owner and then an unfamiliar experimenter, who stood nearby during all sessions.

During the play sessions, the researchers took note of each dog’s tendency for possession, willingness to retrieve, behaviors related to fear, avoidance and aggression, and the occurrence of play bows, when a dog crouches down on its front legs with its head held high and its tail wagging.

The researchers then examined the effect that six factors had on the dogs’ behavior: the familiarity of the play partner; the type of the game; the dogs’ gender, age and breed; and the ordinary amount of daily interaction between dog and owner.

Most of the dogs played with anyone in sight, so the factor related to the familiarity of the play partner was crossed off the list.

How much the dog played on a daily basis, however, did seem to affect how motivated or fearful the dog was during the study.

The dog’s breed played a minor role, with breeds selected for fighting, such as terriers, occasionally tending to get more stimulated during the more competitive tug-of-war game.

Gender was a slightly more important factor, with males tending to be somewhat less tentative than females, and more males than females preferring tug-of-war.

“Historically, dogs hooked up with humans some 15,000 years ago by pleasing us in exchange for food,” said Tot. “They are motivated to play and to please, and these drives appear to be stronger than some of their other urges now,” she added. (ANI)

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