Annual International Conference on Comparative Cognition edition:23 location:Melbourne Beach (FL), USA date:13-16 April 2016
Self-control can be defined as the ability to inhibit impulses in the face of an external demand. Self-control is especially important for working dogs that perform a variety of tasks, such as searching for drugs or missing people, which requires impulse inhibition. We investigated whether heart-rate variability (HRV), a proxy for self-control in humans, was associated with the exertion of self-control by police dogs. We measured the HRV of police dogs during an out-of-sight down-stay exercise for 10 min (Self-Control condition) and for the same duration of time while caged (Control condition). We found that the dogs’ HRV was higher when they were exerting self-control than when they were caged. Our result mirrors that reported for humans, and suggests that HRV is associated with the exertion of self-control in dogs.