Friday, January 16, 2015

Studies Find Dogs Prefer New Toys

   December 27, 2014 |   

Despite their individual differences, dogs as a species still have overarching ‘dog like’ attributes. If you live with a dog, you might have reflected on a particular doggie characteristic this holiday season without even realizing it.
Dogs like new things. The scientific term for a preference for novelty is called neophilia, and neophilia could explain why you got your canine companion a new holiday toy. But how long until it’s time for the next new toy? The answer could depend on you.
While neophilia in dogs has been anecdotally assumed, researchers investigated it only recently. In 2008, researchers from the University of Giessen in Germany and the University of Lincoln in the UK (Twitter) published a study in Animal Cognition investigating whether dogs prefer a novel object over ones they’ve already played with. In what could be called the Usual Suspects Toy Lineup Study, 17 dogs were familiarized with two different objects. The experimenter played with the dogs and the objects to ensure interest. Dogs were then presented with a lineup of three toys — two they had already seen plus a novel toy. Each dog saw three different lineups and was exposed to three different unfamiliar objects over the course of the study.

“NEW!” screamed the dogs. Dogs overwhelmingly chose to sniff or pick up the new object, and the researchers reported that “the unfamiliar object was chosen first in 38 out of 50 tests”. Chaser the dog knows all about the difference between new and old toys.

If you are a dog owner, you might not always be so keen on neophilia. While dogs are interested in new objects, the interest is not always long-lasting. That makes sense; new things can’t be new forever. Researchers at the University of Bristol Anthrozoology Institute and WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition explain that dogs “show intense but transient neophilia towards novel objects” (emphasis added). ‘Transient’ is the real kicker for dog owners, particularly if you’ve shelled out big bucks for a new toy, only to find it alone in the corner 10 minutes later, replaced by the wrapping paper that it came in.  Read the entire article

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