Date of Award

Fall 12-1-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Heidi Lyn

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Stanley A. Kuczaj II

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Richard S. Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research


The study of canine cognition can be useful in understanding the ontology and selective pressures that affect the development of cognitive abilities. Dogs have undergone intensive artificial selection yielding distinctive breeds which differ both phenotypically and behaviorally. Breed based cognitive differences have not been found but some studies suggest there may be differences in broader categories such as working disposition and sex. The influence of size on canine cognition has not been thoroughly addressed despite the fact that large dogs are often perceived to be ‘smarter’ than small dogs. This preconception has only recently been addressed and supported in one study comparing large and small dogs in a social cognition task where large dogs outperformed small dogs in a pointing choice task. Here I assessed the cognitive differences of large and small dogs using a series of spatial cognition tasks. As predicted there were no differences between large and small dogs, although small differences were found between males and females when spay/neuter status was accounted for. Therefore, it is unlikely that disparities found in social cognition tasks are due to genetic or physiological differences related to size. Instead it is probable that differences in cognitive performance are based on other factors such as prior training experience or past experience with humans in general.