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Study shows dogs' personalities age, just like humans

A scientific study published this month provides details of how a dog’s character changes with age. Apparently, “going off the boil” is something dogs have in common with us!

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 18/10/2020, 10:00

Lead author of the behavioural study, Borbála Turcsán describes in her findings how certain traits seen of dogs remain well into later life, and how others - such as attentiveness – tail off significantly.

Four years ago, the research fellow based at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary studied the behaviours of 217 dogs. The animals’ ages were various: from 6 months to 15 years old. Ms Loránd noted the dogs’ interactions with their owners, and each canine was evaluated using a series of tests known as the Vienna Dog Personality Test.

Moment of truth

Four years later, Loránd and her team recalled the participants. Some dogs had since died and others were, for one reason or another, unable to take part in the follow up tests. In all, 37 dogs showed up.

Loránd’s tests included exploration and obedience. Tests were also carried out to determine a dog’s willingness to play and to be curious.

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A problem shared…

The researchers discovered that the ability of a dog to solve problems developed rapidly until the age of about six. After this milestone the dog’s ability stayed more or less the same into later life. However, a dog’s curiosity and their want to explore waned.

Of her research Loránd told NBC, "Similar to humans, dog personality is both stable and malleable.

“Dogs that are active and curious when young will remain active and curious when they get old, but only compared to other dogs. A dog's personality changes over time, and, on average, every dog becomes less active and less curious as they age."