Problem solving behaviors in dogs: what pet dogs can teach working dogs

The demand for competent working dogs has never been greater, but what behavioral characteristics make for a superior working dog? We compare outcomes for a problem solving test (the Canine Intelligence Test Protocol/CITP) for 128 US government contractor dogs and >100 pet dogs. Research indicates that dogs have brain development and complexity similar to humans. The CITP consists of 13 canine-centric problem solving tests, based on cognitive domains tested in humans, adapted for dogs. Tests on working dogs revealed no breed superiority, but exposed a profound effect for training environment: one vendor’s dogs were less successful at all aspects of the CITP. We compare performance between the pet and working dogs with respect to outcomes and problem solving style. Data from pet dogs emphasize the crucial roles played by early environment, experience and learning. Anxiety, reactivity and problematic early rearing handicap problem solving abilities in dogs, as in humans.

Authors: Karen L. Overall, Arthur E. Dunham