With Crufts fast approaching, and canine agility in the spotlight, researchers in Laterality ask if right and left-sided brain function and stimuli affect canine performance. There is a long established and debated human right brain/left brain theory: does lateralisation of brain function affect dogs too? Their study reveals fascinating insights into workings of the canine brain.
Researchers used 17 dogs and trainers to conduct a series of tests, firstly paw preference tests whilst offering food and also agility tests, using A-frames, jumps and weave poles. Throughout, the dogs received trainer stimuli from both right and left sides. Trainers also completed questionnaires giving more information about the dog's temperament.
Results of the three combined revealed intriguing relationships between paw preference and agility. Dogs with stronger paw preferences seemed more predisposed to training, less distracted and had greater agility. When trainers presented on the left, dogs were more agitated, emotional, and performances deteriorated. A dog's left visual field stimulates right brain hemisphere.
So, what causes the uneven response to right and left stimuli? Could the asymmetry be due to separate triggers in right/left hemispheres: a dichotomy in function? Does the right side of a canine brain control doggy intense emotions?
- Marcello Siniscalchi, Daniele Bertino, Angelo Quaranta. Laterality and performance of agility-trained dogs. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 2014; 19 (2): 219 DOI: 10.1080/1357650X.2013.794815
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