Dog Self-Control: The Extent and Limitations

Graduation Year



At the request of the author, this paper is not available for download. Bona fide researchers may consult it by visiting the University Archives in Tate Archives & Special Collections; contact archives@iwu.edu for details.


Self-control predicts positive and negative outcomes for humans (Mischel & Ebbesen, 1970). Self-control may not be uniquely human: several non-human primate species wait for a more preferred reward and forgo immediate less-preferred choices. However, little work has explored individual differences or limitations in self-control of non-primates. In the present study, nine dogs were presented with a spinning plexi-glass covered wheel. When the wheel spun, it brought food close to a window where the dog could access it. A less-preferred reward approached the window before a more-preferred reward. If dogs ate the first reward the wheel stopped spinning and they could not access the preferred food. Three dogs readily waited for the more-preferred treat. However, no dogs allowed one preferred treat to pass to pass to receive four or even eight of the same treat later. Therefore, dogs' self-control depended on the quality of the treat they wait for, but not quantity. Future studies could explore the relation between self-control and behavioral outcomes in dogs in an effort to provide insight into behavioral problems such as separation anxiety or destructive behaviors.



This document is currently not available here.