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Dogs 'show social rank in packs'

Monday January 27th 2014

The way dogs behave in packs is a giveaway of their character and social ranking, experts believe.

Dogs were fitted with high-resolution GPS harnesses for the study published in PLOS Computational Biology, revealing that dogs taking the lead in the pack are more responsive to training, more controllable, older and more aggressive than dogs that follow.

They also tended to have higher dominance ranks in everyday situations, according to the researchers from Oxford University, Evtvvs University, Budapest and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who tracked the movements of six dogs and their owner across 14 walks off the lead each lasting 30 to 40 minutes.

The researchers suggest the technology used in the study could be applied to search and rescue dogs so that handlers can compare how well different dogs work together and choose the most compatible canines.

Lead author Dr Mati Nagy, of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said an "underlying social network" strongly influences a pack's collective behaviour.

"We showed that it is possible to determine the social ranking and personality traits of each dog from their GPS movement data. On individual walks it is hard to identify one permanent leader, but over longer timescales it soon becomes clear that some dogs are followed by peers more often than others."

Copyright Press Association 2014

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