Do Dogs Understand the Concept of “Less is More”?

dogs eating veggies blog 2Those of us with ravenous, perpetually hungry dogs might find it hard to believe that dogs could understand the concept of "less is more" as it pertains to food, but new research is showing just that.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky wanted to see if hungry dogs chose the option that led to more food rather than less food. They used baby carrots and string cheese to test the "less is more" effect.

As it turns out, when the dogs were given a choice between eating either one slice of cheese or eating the cheese and a piece of carrot, the majority of the dogs chose to only eat the cheese. This is considered to be a mental shortcut that has previously been found in humans and other primates. The "less is more" preference shows that the animal chooses the quality of the food over the quantity of it.  Interestingly, the one dog who ate both the carrot and the cheese in the study was previously a homeless dog fending for itself on the streets.

So why is it that the "less is more" effect occurs? The researchers attest it to theory that choosing quality over quantity may be beneficial when an individual is faced with the need to make a  rapid decision, especially for socially organized species. Animals that feed in groups must make quick decisions about the quantity and quality of the food they are able to eat.

It appears that the dogs tested in this study chose to average the quality of the cheese and the carrot together, rather than sum up the quantity of the total food available to them. This research is the first to show that this characteristic is not limited to humans and other primates, and may exist elsewhere in the mammalian world.

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