The Factors That Impact a Dog’s Attention Span

by Julia Newman (’19)

Teaching a dog to sit using food
Fig. 1: Duration of eye contact is used to measure attention span.

Researchers at the University of Padua in Italy conducted a study on attention spans in dogs and ended up discovering that both the level of training and sex of the dog impact this length of time. A total of sixty-four dogs of various levels of training were put through multiple tests in order to record data on the length of their eye contact with handlers, as well as the number of times their gaze shifted away from handlers.

Overall, the results showed that the highly trained dogs were able to hold eye contact for the longest duration. However, females from novice to expert level training held their eye contact for a longer duration than males in all training levels. Females also showed the greatest gaze shifting at every level of training, especially if a toy was present as a distraction. It has been proposed that the hormone differences between male and female dogs may be the cause of these results, but further research must be done to determine the impact of other factors such as the relationship between the dog and its handler.



  1. Mongillo, et al., Can attention be taught? Interspecific attention by dogs performing obedience tasks. Applied Animal Behavioral Science (2016).
  2. Image retrieved from:

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