MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group

Budapest, Hungary

MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group

Budapest, Hungary
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Szantho F.,Eötvös Loránd University | Miklosi A.,Eötvös Loránd University | Miklosi A.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group | Kubinyi E.,Eötvös Loránd University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2017

Dogs' seemingly empathic behaviour attracts general and scientific attention alike. Behaviour tests are usually not sufficiently realistic to evoke empathic-like behaviour; therefore we decided to ask owners about their experiences with their dogs in emotionally loaded situations. Owners from Hungary (N = 591) and from Germany (N = 2283) were asked to rate their level of agreement on a 1-5 Likert scale with statements about the reactivity of their dogs to their emotions and to other dogs' behaviour. We created two scales with satisfactory internal reliability: reactivity to the owner's emotion and reactivity to other dogs' behaviour. Based on an owner-dog personality matching theory, we hypothesised that the owner's empathy, as measured by the subscale on the cooperativeness character factor of the human personality, will correlate with their dog's emotional reactivity in emotionally loaded situations. In addition we also examined how anthropomorphism, contagious yawning, attitude toward the dog are related to emotional reactivity in dogs as perceived by the owner. In addition we examined how owners rate dog pictures. We found that the scale scores were largely independent from demographic and environmental variables like breed, sex, age, age at acquiring, keeping practices, training experiences and owner's age. However, anthropomorphic and emotional attitude of the owners probably biased the responses. In the German sample more empathic owners reported to have more emotionally reactive dog, as expected by the personality matching theory. More empathic owners reported to have fewer problems with their dogs and they rated a puppy picture as more cute in both countries. 62% of owners from Hungary and 36% of owner from Germany agreed with the statement "My dog is more important for me than any human being". In Germany, more empathic owners agreed less with this statement and indicated that their dogs have a tendency for contagious yawning. Owners whose attitudes toward their dogs were anthropomorphic (agreed more with the statement that "My dog thinks like a child"), perceived their dogs as more reactive to their emotions. This findings highlights the importance of testing the attitudes of the respondents when they assess the personality and the emotions of animals. The criterion validity of the Dog Emotional Reactivity Survey should be confirmed by objective behavioural tests. © 2017 Szánthó et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Turcsan B.,Eötvös Loránd University | Turcsan B.,Hungarian Academy of Sciences | Miklosi A.,Eötvös Loránd University | Miklosi A.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group | Kubinyi E.,Eötvös Loránd University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2017

Studies about the behaviours of mixed-breed dogs are rare, although mixed-breeds represent the majority of the world's dog population. We have conducted two surveys to investigate the behavioural, demographic, and dog keeping differences between purebred and mixed-breed companion dogs. Questionnaire data were collected on a large sample of dogs living in Germany (N = 7,700 purebred dogs representing more than 200 breeds, and N = 7,691 mixedbreeds). We found that according to their owners, mixed-breeds were (1) less calm, (2) less sociable toward other dogs, and (3) showed more problematic behaviour than purebreds (p < 0.001 for all). Mixed-breeds and purebreds were similar in trainability and boldness scores. However, twelve out of 20 demographic and dog keeping factors differed between purebred and mixed-breed dogs, and two factors showed considerable (> 10%) differences: neutering was more frequent among mixed-breeds, and they were acquired at older ages than purebreds (p < 0.001 for both), which could result in the observed behaviour differences. After controlling for the distribution of the demographic and dog keeping factors, we found that mixedbreeds were (1) more trainable than purebreds, (2) less calm, and (3) showed more problematic behaviour than purebreds (p < 0.001 for all). We discuss that these differences at least partly might be due to selective forces. Our results suggest that instead of being the "average" dogs, mixed-breeds represent a special group with characteristic behavioural traits. © 2017 Turcsán et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Pongracz P.,Eötvös Loránd University | Lenkei R.,Eötvös Loránd University | Marx A.,Eötvös Loránd University | Farago T.,Eötvös Loránd University | Farago T.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2017

Separation-related disorder (SRD) is one of the most common behavioral problems of companion dogs, causing inconvenience and stress for dog owners and others living close by, as well as being considered as a major contributor to poor animal welfare. Although excessive vocalization is considered as one of the typical symptoms of SRD, until now there were no attempts to analyze and compare the vocal output of affected and non-affected dogs in a systematic, empirical test. In a three-stage outdoor separation experiment we investigated the vocal response of 25 family dogs with, and 20 family dogs without, owner-reported SRD symptoms to the (1) departure; (2) absence; and (3) return of the owner. After the analysis of the occurrence and onset latency of barks and whines, we found that contrary to the commonly held view of excessive barking being one of the trademarks of SRD, dogs with owner-reported SRD symptoms can be reliably characterized by the early onset and high occurrence of whines during the departure and 2. min long absence of the owner, while barks were affected mainly by the age of the dogs. Breed and neuter status may modify the vocal reaction to separation, we found that more purebred dogs barked sooner, while breed and neutering status affected the whines only during the departure of the owner, showing that more mixed breeds and intact dogs whined in this phase. This is the first study that targeted directly the vocal response of family dogs to separation from the owner, and according to the results, whines and barks reflect potentially different motivational/inner states of dogs during a short isolation episode. Although the effect of other factors, such as sex, neuter status and breed cannot be ignored, the owner reported SRD status of dogs showed a high coincidence with the early onset of whining, which in turn proved to be a good indicator of high stress levels of dogs in this situation. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.


Farago T.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group | Miklosi A.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group
3rd IEEE International Conference on Cognitive Infocommunications, CogInfoCom 2012 - Proceedings | Year: 2012

In this paper we propose the application of evolutionary principles in studying technological devices and processes. First we introduce the concepts of Darwinian evolution, which we use to draw an analogy with technology and show how human-made devices can be treated as evolving artificial agents. After explaining the methodology of reconstructing evolutionary history, we apply successfully the delineated principles and methodology to an info-communication system: cellphones. By modeling a possible phylogenetic tree of mobile phones and exploring technological changes through time, we are able to show evolutionary trends and parallels with biological processes. © 2012 IEEE.


Wan M.,Columbia University | Hejjas K.,Semmelweis University | Ronai Z.,Semmelweis University | Elek Z.,Semmelweis University | And 5 more authors.
Animal Genetics | Year: 2013

Both dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) exon 3 and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) intron 4 repeat polymorphisms have been linked to activity and impulsivity in German Shepherd dogs (GSDs). However, the results in GSDs may not be generalisable to other breeds, as allelic frequencies vary markedly among breeds. We selected the Siberian Husky for further study, because it is highly divergent from most dog breeds, including the GSD. The study sample consisted of 145 racing Siberian Huskies from Europe and North America. We found that this breed possesses seven DRD4 length variants, two to five more variants than found in other breeds. Among them was the longest known allele, previously described only in wolves. Short alleles of the DRD4 and TH repeat polymorphisms were associated with higher levels of activity, impulsivity and inattention. Siberian Huskies possessing at least one short allele of the DRD4 polymorphism displayed greater activity in a behavioural test battery than did those with two long alleles. However, the behavioural test was brief and may not have registered variation in behaviour across time and situations. Owners also completed the Dog-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Rating Scale (Dog-ADHD RS), a more general measure of activity and attention. Siberian Huskies from Europe with two short alleles of the TH polymorphism received higher ratings of inattention on the Dog-ADHD RS than did those with the long allele. Investigation of the joint effect of DRD4 and TH showed that dogs possessing long alleles at both sites were scored as less active-impulsive than were others. Our results are aligned with previous studies showing that DRD4 and TH polymorphisms are associated with activity-impulsivity related traits in dogs. However, the prevalence of variants of these genes differs across breeds, and the functional role of specific variants is unclear. © 2013 The Authors, Animal Genetics © 2013 Stichting International Foundation for Animal Genetics.


Akos Z.,Eötvös Loránd University | Beck R.,Eötvös Loránd University | Nagy M.,Eötvös Loránd University | Nagy M.,Hungarian Academy of Sciences | And 5 more authors.
PLoS Computational Biology | Year: 2014

Movement interactions and the underlying social structure in groups have relevance across many social-living species. Collective motion of groups could be based on an "egalitarian" decision system, but in practice it is often influenced by underlying social network structures and by individual characteristics. We investigated whether dominance rank and personality traits are linked to leader and follower roles during joint motion of family dogs. We obtained high-resolution spatio-temporal GPS trajectory data (823,148 data points) from six dogs belonging to the same household and their owner during 14 30-40 min unleashed walks. We identified several features of the dogs' paths (e.g., running speed or distance from the owner) which are characteristic of a given dog. A directional correlation analysis quantifies interactions between pairs of dogs that run loops jointly. We found that dogs play the role of the leader about 50-85% of the time, i.e. the leader and follower roles in a given pair are dynamically interchangable. However, on a longer timescale tendencies to lead differ consistently. The network constructed from these loose leader-follower relations is hierarchical, and the dogs' positions in the network correlates with the age, dominance rank, trainability, controllability, and aggression measures derived from personality questionnaires. We demonstrated the possibility of determining dominance rank and personality traits of an individual based only on its logged movement data. The collective motion of dogs is influenced by underlying social network structures and by characteristics such as personality differences. Our findings could pave the way for automated animal personality and human social interaction measurements. © 2014 Ákos et al.


Balint A.,Eötvös Loránd University | Farago T.,MTA ELTE Comparative Ethological Research Group | Doka A.,Eötvös Loránd University | Miklosi A.,Eötvös Loránd University | And 2 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2013

Nonhuman animals often use specific signals to initiate playful interactions. There is evidence also for different forms of play-maintenance. Playful encounters include out-of-context and exaggerated behavioural sequences. Scientists have already collected knowledge about virtual size modification via acoustic signalling in particular animal species during competitive/agonistic interactions, but the same was unknown in playful encounters. Using the cross-modal matching paradigm, we tested whether dogs prefer to look at the picture of a matching size dog when they are offered two differently sized projected pictures simultaneously with a playback of a playful or a food-guarding growl. We found that dogs looked at the matching picture when they heard the food-guarding growl, but they looked at rather the larger than the matching size dog when play growls were played back. These are the first results to show that dogs may communicate an exaggerated body size by the means of their growls during play, which may help in maintaining or enhancing the playful interaction. As agonistic dog growls were proven to be honest regarding their referential and size-related information content, our results gave evidence that exaggeration may work as play signal in the case of animal vocalizations. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Peter P.,EotvosLorand University | Eva S.,EotvosLorand University | Anna K.,EotvosLorand University | Anna K.,Hungarian Academy of Sciences | And 3 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2014

Besides being a widely investigated behavioural phenomenon, barks of dogs often represent a factor of nuisance for people. Although some argue that dog barking has no or only minimal communicative function, it was shown recently that these acoustic signals carry various information that humans can decipher. However, apart from a few laboratory studies, until now no targeted research has been done about the communicative role of barks in the intraspecific domain. In this field experiment companion dogs were tested with bark playbacks at home, in a suburban environment. From a hidden sound system, placed near to the gate outside of the property, each subject was exposed to pre-recorded barks of an unfamiliar and a familiar dog. Barks for the playbacks were recorded in two different contexts: when the dog was either left alone or when it was barking at a stranger at the fence. We found differences in the behaviour of dogs depending on both the familiarity and context of the playback barks. The position of the dogs (near the house or near the gate) was mainly influenced by the context of the barks (p=0.011), in a significant interaction with the familiarity of the barking dog (p=0.020). Subjects stayed at the gate (nearest to the source of the sound) the longest when they heard an unfamiliar dog barking at a stranger (padj=0.012). Meanwhile they stayed at the house mostly during the barks of a lonely unfamiliar dog (padj=0.001). Dogs oriented more towards the house (where the familiar dog stayed during the experiment) when they heard the familiar dog's barking (p=0.019). Subjects barked more often when they heard the 'stranger' barks, independently of the familiarity of the caller (p=0.035). As a conclusion, dogs seemingly distinguished among the callers based on familiarity and between the contexts of the barks. This is the first study on companion dogs in their natural environment that found evidence that dogs are able to extract detailed information from the barks. The relevance of our findings for the management of excessive bark is discussed. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

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