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Intelligent dogs better at overcoming spatial bias, study finds
“Spatial bias in dogs is not simply a sensory problem but also a mindset" – Dr Iotchev.
Research shows that spatial bias not just sensory.

Smarter dogs find it easier to overcome their spatial bias, a new study has discovered.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, found that dogs with higher cognitive abilities were better able to focus on the physical properties of an object rather than the spatial qualities that dogs tend to focus on.

Numerous previous studies have shown that dogs have a preference to respond to information as being about location rather than objects.

Ivaylo Iotchev, first author of the study, explained: “This is manifested, for example, in the way dogs and children react to gestures when we show them the position of an object. Very early on, children interpret the gesture as pointing to the object, while dogs take the pointing as a directional cue.”

To test whether the spatial bias was the result of dogs’ visual or cognitive abilities, the researchers conducted two behavioural tests involving 82 dogs.

In the first task, the dogs had to learn whether a treat was hidden under a plate positioned on the right or the left. In the other task, they had to learn whether the treat was beneath a round white plate or a square black one.

The researchers compared the results of these tests with the visual acuity and cognitive abilities of each dog. They found a correlation between dogs who had higher-scoring cognitive abilities and success at identifying the correct plate based on what it looked like.

Enikő Kubinyi, part of the research team, said:
We tested their memory, attention skills and perseverance. We found that dogs with better cognitive performance in the more difficult spatial bias task linked information to objects as easily as to places.”

Dr Iotchev added: “Spatial bias in dogs is not simply a sensory problem but also a mindset. We also found that 'smarter' dogs are resilient in difficult learning situations and can overcome their biases.”

The study, ‘Cognitive and sensory capacity each contribute to the canine spatial bias’, has been published in the journal Ethology.

Image © Shutterstock

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Bristol uni celebrates 75 years of teaching vets

News Story 1
 The University of Bristol's veterinary school is celebrating 75 years of educating veterinary students.

Since the first group of students were admitted in October 1949, the school has seen more than 5,000 veterinary students graduate.

Professor Jeremy Tavare, pro vice-chancellor and executive dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, said: "I'm delighted to be celebrating Bristol Veterinary School's 75 years.

"Its excellence in teaching and research has resulted in greater understanding and some real-world changes benefiting the health and welfare of both animals and humans, which is testament to the school's remarkable staff, students and graduates." 

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News Shorts
RCVS HQ to temporarily relocate

The headquarters of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is to move temporarily, ahead of its permanent relocation later in the year.

From Monday, 26 February 2024, RCVS' temporary headquarters will be at 2 Waterhouse Square, Holborn, London. This is within walking distance of its current rented offices at The Cursitor, Chancery Lane.

RCVS have been based at The Cursitor since February 2022, following the sale of its Westminster premises the previous March.

However, unforeseen circumstances relating to workspace rental company WeWork filing for bankruptcy means The Cursitor will no longer operate as a WeWork space. The new temporary location is still owned by WeWork.

RCVS anticipates that it will move into its permanent location at Hardwick Street, Clerkenwell, later on in the year.