Did you know? (No.4)


breakthrough™ brings you a series of interesting facts about pets that you may not know about


carrotsCarrot or Cheese: When Less is More  cheese

There are many dogs that really enjoy eating carrots and all dogs love a piece of fatty cheese! If YOU have dogs that likes both carrots and cheese, here is a little experiment for you to try. First, cut up 20 pieces of cheese and 30 pieces of carrot of roughly the same size and appearance. Now, with the dog sitting about 1 metre in front of you (you might need an assistant to hold the dog unless he is very well trained), put a piece of carrot in one hand and a piece of cheese in the other and hold both hands out to the dog so he can see the food. Now release the dog from the sit so he can come and take the food. As soon as he reaches his preferred hand, left or right, close the other hand to make that piece of food no longer available. Repeat this 10 times and record the dog’s preferred treat. What you will find is that when given the choice, most dogs prefer cheese over carrot. Now repeat the experiment, but this time offer the dog a choice of a piece of cheese alone in one hand or a piece of cheese and carrot together in the other hand. Record the dog’s preference, cheese alone or both cheese and carrot together. What you should find is that the dog will prefer the cheese alone. If you think about it, this is surprising because the dog is choosing to go for less rather than more of the things he enjoys eating.

This phenomenon was studied in humans back in the 1990’s where the researchers asked their subjects to make a quick choice of either taking 24 pieces of crockery all in good condition or 40 pieces of the same crockery with 31 in good condition and 9 broken. Most people chose to take the 24 pieces rather than the 31 pieces with breakages even though they could clearly see that they would get more crockery if they chose the pile of 40 pieces. All of us are making this same less-is-more choice whenever we have to make a quick evaluation of alternatives and scientists think that it is an attribute that has evolved in humans (it’s also been demonstrated in other primates) because, as a social species it gives us a competitive advantage. This is because we tend to choose perceived quality rather than quantity when making a quick decision, probably because it’s easier for us.Val and dog

In a recently published paper, researchers have tested this less-is-more effect in dogs for the very first time, and it seems they do it too! We know that like us, dogs are highly social animals, and this begs the question – do less social animals like cats show this less-is-more effect too?

This has NEVER BEEN TESTED IN CATS – would you like to be the first to try and give us the answer?

Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor BVetMed, DipCABT, MRCVS
Centre of Applied Pet Ethology (COAPE)

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