September 28, 2023

Do you have a grumpy dog? You can have some hidden talents.

In a recent study in Hungary, researchers found that dogs with personality traits that they grouped under the classification “grumpy” were more easily learned from a stranger than quieter dogs.

While this is a close-range skill, grumpy dog ​​owners will appreciate any good news about their pets.

Let’s look at some of the traits that the researchers grouped under the Grumpy category: he barks easily, growls or snaps when disturbed, does not show up when called, watches the food to keep other dogs or people away , is active and restless. This is the dog that shelters say needs a very special owner. This is the dog that very special owners always have to explain something to their friends about. This is Fluffy’s chair, they say. This is Fluffy’s mat. Actually, this is all Fluffy’s house. Better let’s go to a cafe.

Peter Pongracz, whose specialty at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest is the interaction between dogs and humans, published the latest results in Animals magazine under the title “Grumpy dogs are good at learning”.

(A quick warning to those considering getting a dog, the study says nothing about which breeds are the grumpiest. The scientists looked at differences in individual dogs, all pets.)

Pongracz conducted the experiments because he had found in previous projects that dominant and submissive dogs showed differences in learning style in households with more than one dog.

The dog’s role remained the same in both studies. Pongracz and his colleagues have brought a favorite treat or toy into sight behind a V-shaped wire fence. The dogs instinctively tried to approach the delicacy, which unfortunately didn’t work. You had to first move further away from the prize to bypass the fence and get there. To the canine mind, this idea is very strange. The price and its wonderful smell is up here, why should I go away?

“It’s a pretty difficult job for a dog to do when he’s alone,” Pongracz said.

Dogs learn socially, which means they can see what someone else (dog or person) is doing and then learn to do the same. In the previous study, dogs in a dominant position in a multi-dog household did poorly at watching other dogs, while the more submissive animals did very well, perhaps because they are used to watching other dogs migrate. But when one person taught them the solution, all animals showed the same thing.

Pongracz decided to analyze the relationship between dogs and owners in the final experiment. The owners filled out a questionnaire. And the dogs themselves did some tests too. After statistically analyzing the results of both the owner survey and dog tests, the researchers concluded that a number of dog characteristics, ranging from high activity to clicking or grunting, belong to the same category.

Pongracz said it was difficult to identify this group “because these dogs are not exactly aggressive but have a sullen demeanor.”

“Grumpy” is the term that best describes them.

For this experiment, the dogs had to remove the object from the V-shaped fence. Grumpy and friendly dogs performed equally well when faced with solving the solution on their own or when their owners taught them how to get pleasure.

But the grumpy dogs did noticeably better when a stranger showed them how to get to the object.

“They were more observant,” said Pongracz. Why they behave this way has yet to be determined.

Monique Udell, director of the Human-Animal Interaction Laboratory at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the research, said the study, as more and more research has shown, showed that “dog individuality and life experience do performance affect and all kinds of tasks ”.

But he said the traits grouped under the “grumpy” category appeared to go in two directions.

In addition to being a researcher, Udell, who is also a dog trainer, said trainers have long known that dogs that appear to be overly energetic or even hyperactive, as pets sometimes excel at tasks like herding, obedience, or dog work.

“The reluctance to come back when called” suits this type of dog, as is less inhibition, he said. The other traits listed in the grumpy category of the study that relate to aggression, such as: B. looking at food does not match his experience.

So he wondered if all of the behavioral tendencies grouped under this label could be based on something more than just grumbling.

Cynthia M. Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine, was not involved in the study, but said the latest article lacked details on the life history of dogs and the nature of the training they went through. There are “so many variables that go into our relationships,” he said.

Of course, the variability of the dog’s personality and suitability for different tasks cannot be denied, he noted.

At the Working Dog Center, they “allow dogs to choose their careers based on their personality, interactions and relationships,” he said. He emphasized that races are not always a reliable indicator of personality due to individual differences.

Pongracz has four dogs of the same breed, the Mudi, which are Hungarian Shepherds, and each one has a unique personality.

“But they all bark a lot,” he commented. “They are loud”.

James Gorman is a science writer and host and writer on the ScienceTake video series. He joined the Times in 1993 and is the author of several books, including How to Build a Dinosaur, written with paleontologist Jack Horner.