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A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs

Department of Ethology, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1222;
Received: 21 June 2020 / Revised: 12 July 2020 / Accepted: 15 July 2020 / Published: 17 July 2020
Cognitive aging in dogs has attracted interest due to their utility as an animal model for human aging and their need for veterinary care. The latter in particular would benefit substantially from standardized tests for fast and comfortable administration, which would reduce time and financial costs for both owners and practitioners. Here, we examine a battery of tests (the mini mental test, MMT) selected and adapted toward this end in a sample of 20 young (1–5y) and 26 old (10–15y) dogs. Each behavioral test was evaluated for its ability to discriminate between dogs based on their age category. Older dogs displayed less social interest, performed worse in a place-memory test, and seemed both less interested in and less fearful of a novel, moving object, aligning with previous findings and thus confirming the MMT’s external validity. The older dogs were also less excitable, assessed by a dog personality questionnaire. Based on these results, for future studies comparing the behavior of young adult and old dogs, we suggest four feasible subtests (greeting, problem box, memory, novel object) that can be conducted outdoors, without complex devices, in a short time (< than 15 min), and evaluated on the spot. To determine which performance levels are within the normal range for old dogs, larger samples grouped by breed and age will need to be tested in future studies.
Over the last few years, several efforts have been undertaken to characterize the aging process in dogs. In the present study, we evaluate a short protocol measuring dogs’ cognitive, social, and physical capacities. Our aim was to develop a feasible test battery, with minimal pre-training requirements, no complex devices, and which is set outdoors (i.e., a specific testing room is not needed). As ageing in dogs is usually associated with a decrease in activity, we also assessed the personality trait activity/excitability with a dog personality questionnaire. Four subtests proved sensitive to the dogs’ age. In particular, old dogs displayed less approaching and following behaviors toward an unknown but friendly human, showed both less avoidance and interest toward a novel object, looked less at the owner when faced with an unsolvable problem, and performed worse on the short-term memory task. Previous test procedures for investigating age-related changes involve expensive and/or complicated devices and extensive pre-training. The main advantage of the proposed battery is to reduce costs and efforts in veterinary assessments. Further tests in same-breed, large samples and between dogs with mild and severe cognitive impairments will be needed in order to further validate the battery.
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Keywords: ageing; cognition; social behavior; personality; excitability; dog ageing; cognition; social behavior; personality; excitability; dog
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kubinyi, E.; Iotchev, I.B. A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs. Animals 2020, 10, 1222.

AMA Style

Kubinyi E, Iotchev IB. A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs. Animals. 2020; 10(7):1222.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kubinyi, Eniko, and Ivaylo B. Iotchev. 2020. "A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs" Animals 10, no. 7: 1222.

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