March 24 - Researchers in Hungary are developing a method of finding better trained, and more effective working dogs by studying how the animals establish hierarchies within a group. The scientists are using GPS technology to establish canine leadership dynamics, and believe their findings could help in choosing dogs best suited to tasks like search and rescue. Jim Drury reports.
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Despite appearances, there's method to the movement of individual dogs within a group.
New research suggests that the group's dominant animal is established early on through a unique game of 'follow the leader'.
UPSOT: DOGS PANTING
Scientists from Hungary and Britain tracked the movement of individual Viszla hunting dogs when exercised in groups of six.
GPS devices were attached to the dogs as they ran off the leash for 40 minute periods.
Elte University research fellow Eniko Kubinyi says the dogs' paths demonstrated clear signs of hierarchy within the group.
SOUNDBITE (Hungarian) ENIKO KUBINYI (PRON: En-ee-cah Koo-bee-nyee), RESEARCH FELLOW OF ELTE UNIVERSITY, SAYING:
"What we found was that those dogs who the others like to follow are more dominant and a little more aggressive. Although the Vizslas are not aggressive types there were differences in those individuals' behaviour."
The researchers say motion capture analysis showed certain dogs emerge as pack leaders, which other dogs willingly follow.
UPSOT: DOGS RUNNING
Leadership is long established in wolves, where packs are typically led by a single breeding pair, but the phenomenon hasn't before been proven in dogs.
For dog trainer Hedvig Balazs, the findings could be useful.
UPSOT: DOG OWNER WHISTLING
SOUNDBITE (Hungarian) DOG OWNER, HEDVIG BALAZS (PRON: Head-Vigg, Baa-Latchz), SAYING:
"The research results will help us in our dog training job. These results will also help us train young dogs."
And the study authors say the technology could be used to assess search and rescue dogs to see which animals work best together.
SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) RESEARCH FELLOW OF ELTE UNIVERSITY, ENIKO KUBINYI, SAYING:
"People can find out a lot more about their dogs. We can learn new things about packs of dogs that we didn't know before."
Eventually, they say, it could even one day be applied to the study of people to establish why some, and not others, end up as top dog.
UPSOT: DOGS PANTING
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