Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 815–819 | Cite as

Impulsive for life? The nature of long-term impulsivity in domestic dogs

Short Communication


Individual differences in impulsivity occur at a cognitive and/or behavioural level and are associated with differing life outcomes. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support the long-term stability of these characteristics in non-human animals. This study reports on the stability of convergent measures of impulsivity in domestic dogs assessed more than 6 years apart. Measures were (1) owner assessment by means of a questionnaire, the validated ‘Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale’ (DIAS) and (2) dogs’ performance in a delayed reward choice test. Dogs had 15-min free access to two food dispensers, one dispensing a piece of food immediately, the other dispensing three pieces after a delay, which increased by 1 s every other time the dogs sampled it. Maximum delay reached in this task reflects decision-making, or cognitive impulsivity, whereas the rate of extra presses on the delayed reward device during the delay can be considered as a measure of motor or behavioural impulsivity. DIAS scores were strongly and significantly correlated across years. The maximum delay reached in the behaviour test was also highly stable, whereas paw-pressing rate was uncorrelated between the years. These results demonstrate that cognitive but not motor impulsivity is highly consistent over time in dogs.


Dogs Canis familiaris Impulsivity Delayed reward choice Personality Test–retest reliability Stability 



This research was financed by an Exchange Visit Grant awarded to SR by CompCog, an European Science Fund (ESF) Research Networking Programme. SR is furthermore funded by the FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung) Project P21418 and the DK CogCom Programme (FWF Doctoral Programmes W1234). Our thanks go to Raquel Matos for help with experiments, Tom Pike, Claudia Wascher and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on the manuscript and to the dog owners and our canine participants for taking part in this study.

Ethical standard

This research was approved by the University of Lincoln’s ethics committee and complies with British animal welfare legislation.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Riemer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel S. Mills
    • 3
  • Hannah Wright
    • 3
  1. 1.Messerli Research InstituteUniversity of Veterinary Medicine ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Animal Behaviour, Cognition and Welfare Group, School of Life SciencesUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

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