Study spotlights dog impulsivity

February 20, 2012
Study spotlights dog impulsivity

Researchers in Hungary have discovered a clear link between repeat polymorphism in the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene with activity-impulsivity in German Shepherd dogs. The research is presented in the journal PLoS ONE.

Because similar helped shape human and canine behaviours, researchers often choose dogs in their efforts to show a complex level of similarity with humans in a set of functionally shared behavioral features. Scientists who wish to investigate the of complex human behavioural diseases also benefit from dog assessments. The German Shepherd is a popular dog breed: it is known for its 'working' capabilities; used as a guide dog for the blind as well a police dog; and for guarding and protecting. But it is also a great pet dog.

Experts believe that human impulsivity is the opposite of , which centres on , self-discipline and dutifulness. When it comes to dogs, these facets are related to 'responsiveness to training', evaluated by several activities including object retrieval. Dogs, however, have never been directly tested for impulsivity... until now. In this latest study, researchers from Eötvös Loránd University and Semmelweis University in Hungary developed a valid and reliable test battery for measuring activity and in dogs. The team also identified one of the underlying genetic factors of complex traits.

The team assessed the behaviour of 104 dogs, characterised by 2 instruments. The first tool was the previously validated 'Dog-attention deficit hyperactivity disorder rating scale' (Dog-ADHD RS) and the second was the newly developed 'Activity-impulsivity behavioral scale' (AIBS). The second tool included four subtests, and it tested for internal consistency, inter-observer reliability, test-retest reliability and convergent validity.

"We investigated whether the activity-impulsivity trait in dogs measured by owners' reports (Dog-ADHD RS) and behavior tests are affected by a recently reported TH intron 4 repeat polymorphism," the authors of the study write. "In this repeat , a 36-bp-long sequence in the intron 4 region of the TH gene is reiterated once (duplicated) or not reiterated at all."

The researchers say their study offers new insight into a popular working and pet dog breed. The findings also provide a new tool for diagnosing canine hyperactivity. In their paper, the authors write: "The present results also have some potential to support human studies; however, further studies should examine other personality traits involved in the activity-impulsivity of dogs, and the links with human ADHD."

Explore further: Computer savvy canines

More information: Kubinyi, E. et al. 'Polymorphism in the Tyrosine Hydroxylase (TH) Gene Is Associated with Activity-Impulsivity in German Shepherd Dogs', PLoS ONE, 7(1): e30271, 2012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030271

Related Stories

Computer savvy canines

November 28, 2007

Like us, our canine friends are able to form abstract concepts. Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria have shown for the first time that dogs can classify complex color photographs and ...

Dogs can tell canine size through growls

December 17, 2010

( -- New research has demonstrated that dogs can tell the size of another dog by listening to its growls. They are able to do this so accurately they can match the growl to a photograph of a dog of the same size.

Penn State studies storm-phobic canines

December 15, 2005

Penn State University researchers have determined pet owners can't resolve storm phobia in their dogs, but having a multi-dog home may reduce stress.

Recommended for you

Even wild mammals have regional dialects

December 13, 2017

Researchers from Cardiff University's Otter Project have discovered that genetically distinct populations of wild otters from across the UK have their own regional odours for communicating vital information to each other. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
"Nifedipine Prevents Iron Accumulation and Reverses Iron-Overload-Induced Dopamine Neuron Degeneration in the Substantia Nigra of Rats."
"Restores the number of TH-positive neurons "

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.