Dog Self-Control: The Extent and Limitations
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.
AuBuchon, Stephanie M., "Dog Self-Control: The Extent and Limitations" (2016). Honors Projects. 182.