Dogs ‘personalities change over time, but these changes occur unevenly throughout the dogs’ lives, and each trait develops in a different age trajectory.
By: University of Atwash Lorand (ELTE), Budapest. Translation: Ziv Adaki
The personality of dogs varies over time, but these changes occur unevenly throughout the life of the dogs, and each trait develops in a different age trajectory, according to a study published by researchers from ELTE University in Budapest and the University of Vienna Veterinary Medicine in the journal Scientific Reports . The researchers also identified that some of the older dogs have defects, which are potentially age-dependent, and these dogs have shown very slight difficulty in orientation and very high levels of activity.
Scientists have studied the personalities of 217 Border Collie dogs in a wide age range (from 6 months to 15 years). Credit: Kubinyi
A person’s personality is characterized by a unique duality: it is both stable and changeable, depending on the point of reference. If we compare ourselves to our friends, stability stands out, because our personality rankings in relation to others remain constant over time. However, personality changes are clearly visible if we compare ourselves to ourselves over time, because people become more conscientious, more mentally stable and more pleasant as they get older.
But what about stability and a change in the personality of dogs? “Although dog personality is a very popular topic in the literature, there are still knowledge gaps regarding long-term stability, as well as regarding the dynamics of personality development. For example, if personality ranking remains consistent for several years, at what age personality changes occur most noticeably and to what extent Dogs actually change throughout their lives, “explains Borbála Turcsán, lead author of the article (ELTE, Department of Ethology).
To answer these questions, the scientists examined the personalities of 217 Border Collie dogs in a wide age range (from 6 months to 15 years) using a comprehensive series of tests, known as the “Vienna Dog Personality Test” (VIDOPET). And four years later the scientists invited the owners and their dogs back to the lab and re-examined 37 of the dogs.
Prof. Friederike Range (Clever Dog Lab) explains why the dogs were tested again. “Longitudinal studies in which dogs were tested on the same methods at two time points are very rare in the research literature. Following those dogs after about four years allowed us to engage not only in questions of personality stability, but also to examine whether there are individual differences in personality development. They have certain personal profiles that change more than others. “
Dogs’ personalities change over time, but these changes occur unevenly over the course of a dog’s life, and each trait develops a separate age trajectory, according to research published by researchers from the University of ELTE, Budapest, and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna Journal Scientific Reports. Credit: Kubinyi
The scientists showed that dogs’ personalities also have a “stable” component, and the ratings of all five personality traits tested remained fairly consistent throughout the test periods. And so, for example, the most active dogs remained the most active even four years later. And yes, the dogs with the “older” personality (who were less active, less curious, and more problem-focused) changed less in these traits than others – similar to findings in humans.
Dynamics specific to each personality trait
To examine the general age-dependent changes in personality, the researchers compared the dogs’ personalities in seven age groups. “We found that dogs ‘personalities change with age, and that these changes occur unevenly throughout dogs’ lives, just as in humans. However, crucially, the dynamics of change appear to be specific to each personality trait,” says Zsofia Viranyi (Clever Dog Lab, for example). The trait of the problem, changed greatly during early life, increased greatly until around the age of six, and then further changes in this trait were negligible.However, the trait of the search for innovations, did not change markedly during the younger stages of life, but around age The dogs’ three curiosities about new objects and situations began to weaken, and their weakening continued until old age. “
Activity dependence also decreased continuously throughout the life of the dogs, but in this trait the most significant decrease occurred in the transition from being puppies to adolescents (at one to two years of age). Not all traits show such a significant change with age. For example, dogs have shown only a slight tendency to be more patient towards frustrating situations as they have matured, and the level of sociability of the dogs, seems to have been maintained constant throughout their lives.
In addition, the scientists identified that some of the older dogs that have potential age-related defects, showed very few orientation problems and very high levels of activity. “By describing in detail the normative patterns of personality development over different life stages, our research helps identify age-dependent defects,” explains Enikő Kubinyi, a scientist at the Senior Family Dog Project (ELTE), which is supported by the ERC grant. “Dogs are already identified as a natural model for human cognitive aging, and our results show that similar legitimacy reigns in age-dependent changes in the personalities of humans and dogs alike.”
Reference: “Individual and group level personality change across the lifespan in dogs” by Turcsán, B., Wallis, L., Berczik, J., Range, F., Kubinyi and E., Virányi, Zs, 14 October 2020, Scientific Reports.
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