Learning in Canines: A Comparison of Visual and Olfactory Cues
Humans and canines have shared a partnership that extends through history for centuries. Today, dogs are being utilized in many jobs ranging from assisting people with disabilities to search and rescue or bomb detection. Many of these jobs focus on canine olfactory abilities. Much research has been conducted that focuses on canine olfactory precision. However, learning through olfaction has not been measured in comparison to other cues. The hypothesis for this project is that dogs will learn olfactory cues at a faster rate than other types of cues. This outcome is predicted because olfaction is considered the dog’s superior sense. To test the hypothesis eight dogs were taught to associate two visual and two olfactory cues with the commands “sit” and “down.” The research design was a counterbalanced 2x2 factorial. Rates of learning were recorded and compared using ANOVA. The results show a major interaction effect of 3.81E-06 for the “Sit” command and .042 for the “down” command. This suggests that there are not differences in the rates of learning between visual and olfactory cues but that the order in which the animal learns the cue has an effect. Order of learning plays a role because it implies that canines developed a learning set; in other words, the dogs’ rates of learning improved through exposure to training.