Is a local sample internationally representative? Reproducibility of four cognitive tests in family dogs across testing sites and breeds

Dóra Szabó, Daniel S. Mills, Friederike Range, Zsófia Virányi, A. Miklósi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

A fundamental precept of the scientific method is reproducibility of methods and results, and there is growing concern over the failure to reproduce significant results. Family dogs have become a favoured species in comparative cognition research, but they may be subject to cognitive differences arising from genetic (breeding lines) or cultural differences (e.g. preferred training methods). Such variation is of concern as it affects the validity and generalisability of experimental results. Despite its importance, this problem has not been specifically addressed to date. Therefore, we aimed to test the influence of three factors on reproducibility: testing site (proximal environment), breed and sex (phenotype). The same experimenter tested cognitive performance by more than 200 dogs in four experiments. Additionally, dogs’ performance was tested in an obedience task administered by the owner. Breed of dog and testing site were found to influence the level of performance only mildly, and only in a means-end experiment and the obedience task. Our findings demonstrate that by applying the same test protocols on sufficiently large samples, the reported phenomena in these cognitive tests can be reproduced, but slight differences in performance levels can occur between different samples. Accordingly, we recommend the utilisation of well-described protocols supported by video examples of the whole experimental procedure. Findings should focus on the main outcome variables of the experiments, rather than speculating about the general importance of small or secondary performance outcomes which are more susceptible to random or local noise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1033
Number of pages15
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume20
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2017

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Canidae
reproducibility
Dogs
breeds
cognition
testing
sampling
experiment
cultural differences
line differences
Reproducibility of Results
Cognition
dogs
Breeding
Noise
phenotype
dog breeds
breeding lines
breeding
Phenotype

Keywords

  • Behaviour tests
  • Breed comparison
  • Cross-country comparison
  • Dog
  • Replicability
  • Reproducibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

Is a local sample internationally representative? Reproducibility of four cognitive tests in family dogs across testing sites and breeds. / Szabó, Dóra; Mills, Daniel S.; Range, Friederike; Virányi, Zsófia; Miklósi, A.

In: Animal Cognition, Vol. 20, No. 6, 01.11.2017, p. 1019-1033.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Szabó, Dóra ; Mills, Daniel S. ; Range, Friederike ; Virányi, Zsófia ; Miklósi, A. / Is a local sample internationally representative? Reproducibility of four cognitive tests in family dogs across testing sites and breeds. In: Animal Cognition. 2017 ; Vol. 20, No. 6. pp. 1019-1033.
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