a Training modifies the brain of your dog - The Happy Puppers (Dog care, grooming, behavior and training)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Training modifies the brain of your dog

 Did you know that the type of training you provide to your canine companion will modify his or her brain?

Does training modify dog brain? Really?

Yes, you read it right. The kind of training that is given to a dog modifies the neural network in their brain. Interesting fact, isn’t it? Do you want to know how this new research came to light? Then keep on reading until the end.

If you have gone through any literature about dog care, you would have known that is of utmost importance to dog be it of any breed and any size. Training your dog not only provides a structure to your dog’s behavior, it also enables you to establish a bond with your dog and helps you understand the cues your furry companion might be using to communicate with you. Thus, I almost always urge dog guardians to train themselves first and then train their dogs by themselves. This exercise is truly rewarding and helps strengthen your bond.

How you train your dog can cause modifications to their neural networks
How you train your dog can cause modifications to their neural networks


The thousands of years humans have spent with dogs has transformed them from being utterly fearsome wolves to fluffy and super cute frisbee and ball catchers. Dogs normally range in size from tiny teacup pups all the way to the towering great Danes. A recent study published in science magazine suggests that we, the humans have changed the structure of the dog’s brain.

For the conduction of the research, a neuroscientist from the Harvard University who also is the caretaker of two hyper Australian shepherds along with two colleagues formed a library of the brain MRI scans from 62 purebred dogs belonging to 32 different breeds. They lined the MRI images side-by-side and analyzed them to understand the differences in brain structures from dogs who were bred differently. As per her, the results were almost instantly visible.

The dogs who belonged to the breeds like Labradors retrievers, Bichon frises etc. had different head shapes and sizes. However, these things could not explain the variation in the layout of the brain.

The team from Harvard University further mapped out six different regions in the brain which tended to be either smaller or bigger in different breeds of dogs. This difference in pattern forced the scientists to think that these different regions were probably dominating different behaviors in the dogs. They wondered, if this difference in the neural network could be the reason for the difference in behavior observed from different dog breeds. For example, a Border Collie can heard hundreds of sheep into an enclosure with amazing speed and agility while on the other hand, beagles have the ability to sniff and detect cancer in humans.

To answer this perplexing question, the team checked out the six different networks which they observed from different breed of dogs and referenced it with the traits of the dogs as per the American kennel club.

Every brain network that they looked at showed a correlation with at least one behavioral trait in the dogs. Doberman and boxers who are sometimes used in police force showed differences in their traits from other breeds. This difference was observed specifically in the neural network which was linked to sight and smell. Dogs who were bred for fighting showed modifications in the neural network which was representative of anxiety, stress and fear responses.

The scientists furthermore try to identify the differences between the dogs who were bred for hunting by sent versus the dogs who were bred for sight hunting. They observed that the dogs who specialized in hunting by scent have differences in the sophisticated areas of their brain which enables them to understand and communicate the information.

However, there is one drawback to the study. All the dogs who were examined for the study were domesticated pet dogs. They were not working dogs. Chances are, if they analyzed working dogs they would find the neural network to be different from those of the pet dogs due to the regular use of the commands and training that is given to them. Another drawback from my standpoint is that the study was done on a few dog breeds. If the included more dog breeds, especially the ones which show a different kind of trait like Basenji’s (the bark less dogs), the same results would be much more reliable.

training modifies the brain of dogs
Training modifies the dog's brain 

What do you think about this? Honestly, I have never thought that training could change a dog’s neural network. But to be honest, I am more than happy that research is finally being conducted to really understand why dogs behave the way they do and how their life can be made better. After all, they are our family and we would do anything for them. Understanding their patterns of behavior and how their mind works would enable us to strengthen our bonds with our canine part of the family.

Do you train your dog yourself or do you send him or her to a trainer? If you have trained your dog yourself, how was your experience? Was it an enriching and rewarding experience or was it a total frustration? Let me know in the comments. If there is any specific question you wish to be addressed, please mentioned in the comment section or you can also reach out to me on any of my social media.

1 comment: