A new study has found that overweight dogs were less likely to do a task if a food reward was uncertain.
Overweight dogs may have similar personality traits to overweight humans when it comes to behaviour, a new study published in Royal Society Open Science has found.
A European research team made up of Ákos Pogány, Orsolya Torda, Lieta Marinelli, Rita Lenkei, Vanda Junó, Péter Pongrácz looked at ‘obesity prone’ breeds including 21 Beagles, eight Golden Retrievers, 14 Labrador Retrievers and ‘not obesity prone breeds’which consisted of 24 Border Collies and Mudis.
Of the 91 dogs involved in the study, 66 (or 73.33 percent) completed all 20 trials.
During the trials and tests, the dogs were encouraged by the owners and examiners to go for a bowl containing low-energy food although a bowl containing their preferred high-energy and more rewarding food was also available.
The researchers also looked at how eager the dogs were to go to a bowl where the food contents were unknown.
The overweight dogs were found to ignore the instructions of the humans, opting for the bowls containing high energy foods compared to the canines of an ideal weight. The overweight dogs were also slow to respond to the bowls when the reward was unknown.
Beagles acted similarly to overweight dogs as they were also found to be less likely to choose the indicated bowl when the non-indicated bowl contained rewarding food. The prediction that obesity-prone breeds would react similarly was not supported as Retrievers and Beagles did not display the same behaviour.
It was also concluded that all of the dogs were less likely to quit the test when the alternative pot contained (high-quality) food.
The behaviour of overweight dogs indicated that these subjects were more responsive to the possibility of consuming more rewarding food and they showed a more conservative/cautious (or ‘pessimistic’) strategy when the contents were unknown, a strategy expect from human subjects.
The researchers concluded that the results of the two-object choice test could theoretically be explained by obese participants being less able to focus their attention, similar to humans.
In the UK, one in three dogs is considered clinically obese.