Behaviour 2019
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Environmental Influences on Development of Executive Functions in Dogs
Maike Foraita, Tiffani Howell, Pauleen Bennett. Anthrozoology Research Group, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia , Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Executive functions (EFs) are a set of cognitive processes used for effortful self-regulation of behaviour. These include inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Dogs (Canis familiaris) must constantly regulate their behaviour in the human environment (e.g. no jumping up on humans or chasing cats). In humans EFs are shaped through socioeconomic factors and life experiences. Life experiences probably influence EFs in dogs also. Research into dog cognition and behaviour has been thriving. Some methods used may rely on EF, even if that is not their stated aim (e.g. object choice task, questionnaires measuring traits like distraction and aggression). Dog EFs may be negatively affected by hardships and positively by surmountable challenges early in life. Training methods appear important, with punishment-based methods leading to poorer dog EFs. Kennel environments seem to affect dog EFs negatively. While mild stressors might enhance EFs, too much stress seems to have negative effects. Regulation of behaviour, a key aspect of EFs, is crucial for dogs’ integration into human society. We should strive to better understand how the environment shapes dogs EFs.