Understanding what is higher value

Researchers have now proven what dog trainers have known for some time: dogs have a sense of quality when it comes to treats and they will seek out the higher value ones.

Kristina Pattison and Thomas Zentall of the University of Kentucky tested the principle by feeding baby carrots and string cheese to ten dogs of various breeds

Dog eating cheeseThe research was conducted on dogs that would willingly eat cheese and baby carrots when offered, but showed a preference for the cheese. However, when given a choice between one slice of cheese, or the cheese together with a piece of carrot, nine of the ten dogs chose the cheese alone. That is, they chose less food over more food.

People, for instance, tend to place greater value on a set of six baseball cards that are in perfect condition, than on the same set of six perfect cards together with three more cards in fair condition.

In cases where rapid decisions must be made, quick solution-driven heuristics such as the “less is more” effect may come in handy. For instance, it is helpful when members of the same species, such as a pack of dogs, feed together. The one that hesitates may lose food to faster-choosing competitors.

But the fact that one in ten dogs did choose the cheese-and-carrot combination suggests that levels of motivation may play a role in this effect. The outlier dog, for instance, had a history of living in shelters and fending for himself.

Source:  Springer media release

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