Early Olfactory Stimulation in Purpose-Bred Detection Dogs
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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Experiences during critical periods of early development have been shown to significantly impact cognitive development in dogs. However, the effect of early odor experiences on the ontogenetic development of cognition in dogs has yet to be explored despite the critical role of olfaction in a dog’s perception of its environment. To address this question, we split purpose-bred detection dogs into three groups: 1) an early enrichment group, 2) an early imprinting group, and 3) a control group. Dogs in the early enrichment group received odor enrichment from 2-7 weeks of age while dogs in the early imprinting group received odor discrimination training from 2-6 months of age. All dogs were tested on the Delayed Search Task and the Detour Reversal Task at 3, 5, and 11 months of age to evaluate differences in cognitive development between the groups. Significant age effects were observed demonstrating development of cognitive abilities along with evidence suggesting that females outperform males on tasks measuring spatial discrimination abilities. A difference between the early imprinting group and the control group was also found suggesting that dogs in the early imprinting group have greater reward-driven arousal. Ultimately, larger sample sizes are needed to make conclusions about the effects of early odor exposure on canine cognitive development.