Senior Family Dog Project

Senior Family Dog Project

Founded: 2016
Principal Investigator: Dr. Kubinyi Enikő
Funding: European Research Council (ERC)

Understanding how active, healthy ageing can be achieved is one of the most relevant problems today. The rapid ageing of the human population will significantly change society, creating health care and economic challenges. Translational work aiming to address which factors shape the trajectory of cognitive ageing are limited as the traditional animal model species do not spontaneously develop age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Laboratory animals are also kept under conditions that likely jeopardize the ecological validity of the findings.

The study of companion dog ageing is significant from at least two perspectives. Firstly, dogs are increasingly recognized as animal models in ageing research. They share our environment, are exposed to the same hazards, receive advanced medical care, display comparable socio-cognitive skills, and develop similar age-related pathologies.

Secondly, 87 million pet dogs live in Europe. The relatively extended lifespan in dogs artificially enhances the proportion of dogs with cognitive decline which is a serious welfare concern. Research could facilitate the early recognition and treatment of detrimental conditions in ageing dogs, as well as inform strategies for a preventive and predictive approach (e.g. feeding, physical and mental exercises).

Our project aims to explore the cognitive ageing of family dogs using an interdisciplinary approach with behavioural, neuroscientific, and genetic testing methods. Our goal is twofold: to enhance translational research on cognitive ageing and increase canine welfare. We characterised the canine ageing phenotype with cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations and identify age-related biomarkers.


  1. Wallis, L.J., Radford, A.D., Belshaw, Z., Jackson, J., Kubinyi, E., German, A.J. and Westgarth, C., 2023. “Just old age”–a qualitative investigation of owner and veterinary professional experiences of and attitudes to ageing in dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
  2. Lehoczki, F., Andics, A., Kershenbaum, A., Kubinyi, E., Passilongo, D., Root-Gutteridge, H., Range, F., Sánchez, V.P., Schmidt, L., Townsend, S.W. and Watson, S.K., 2023. Genetic distance from wolves affects family dogs’ reactions towards howls. Communications Biology, 6(1), p.129.
  3. Kovács, T., Szinyákovics, J., Billes, V., Murányi, G., Varga, V.B., Bjelik, A., Légrádi, Á., Szabó, M., Sándor, S., Kubinyi, E. and Szekeres-Paracky, C., 2022. A conserved MTMR lipid phosphatase increasingly suppresses autophagy in brain neurons during aging. Scientific Reports, 12(1), p.21817.
  4. Piotti, P., Piseddu, A., Aguzzoli, E., Sommese, A., & Kubinyi, E. (2022). Two valid and reliable tests for monitoring age-related memory performance and neophobia differences in dogs. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 1-10.
  5. Kubinyi, E. Biologia Futura: four questions about ageing and the future of relevant animal models. Biologia Futura (2022)
  6. Sándor, S., Jónás, D., Tátrai, K., Czeibert, K., Kubinyi, E. (2022) Poly(A) RNA sequencing reveals age-related differences in the prefrontal cortex of dogs. GeroScience, 44, 1269–1293.
  7. Urfer, S.R., Darvas, M., Czeibert, K., Sándor, S. Promislow, D. E. L., Creevy, K. E., Kubinyi*, E., Kaeberlein*, M. (2021) Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) scores correlate with amyloid beta 42 levels in dog brain tissue. GeroScience, 43:2379–2386. *These authors jointly supervised this work.
  8. Marx, A., Lenkei, R., Pérez Fraga, P., Wallis, L., Kubinyi, E., Faragó, T. (2021). Age-dependent changes in dogs’ (Canis familiaris) separation-related behaviours in a longitudinal study. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 105422.,
  9. Sándor, S., Czeibert, K., Salamon, A., & Kubinyi, E. (2021). Man’s best friend in life and death: scientific perspectives and challenges of dog brain banking. GeroScience, 43:1653–1668.
  10. Bognár, Z., Szabó, D., Deés, A., & Kubinyi, E. (2021). Shorter headed dogs, visually cooperative breeds, younger and playful dogs form eye contact faster with an unfamiliar human. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1-11., 10.1038/s41598-021-88702-w
  11. Sándor, S., Tátrai, K., Czeibert, K., Egyed, B., & Kubinyi, E. (2021). CDKN2A gene expression as a potential aging biomarker in dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 8, 348., 10.3389/fvets.2021.660435
  12. Marx, A., Lenkei, R., Pérez Fraga, P., Bakos, V., Kubinyi, E., Faragó, T. (2021). Occurrences of non-linear phenomena and vocal harshness in dog whines as indicators of stress and ageing. Sci Rep 11:4468., IF=3.398
  13. Iotchev, I. B., & Kubinyi, E. (2021). Shared and unique features of mammalian sleep spindles–insights from new and old animal models. Biological Reviews, 96:1021-1034. IF=10.701
  14. Turcsán, B., Wallis, L., Berczik, J., Range, F., Kubinyi, E., & Virányi, Z. (2020). Individual and group level personality change across the lifespan in dogs. Scientific Reports, 10:17276 IF=3.398
  15. Gunde, E., Czeibert, K., Gábor, A., Szabó, D., Kis, A., Arany-Tóth, A., Andics, A., Gácsi, M., Kubinyi, E. (2020). Longitudinal Volumetric Assessment of Ventricular Enlargement in Pet Dogs Trained for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Studies. Veterinary Sciences, 7(3), 127.
  16. Kubinyi, E., Bel Rhali, S., Sándor, S., Szabó, A., & Felföldi, T. (2020). Gut Microbiome Composition is Associated with Age and Memory Performance in Pet Dogs. Animals, 10(9), 1488. IF=2.2
  17. Gábor, A., Gácsi, M., Szabó, D., Miklósi, Á., Kubinyi, E., & Andics, A. (2020). Multilevel fMRI adaptation for spoken word processing in the awake dog brain. Scientific Reports, 10:11968, IF=3.398
  18. Kubinyi, E., & Iotchev, I. B. (2020). A Preliminary Study toward a Rapid Assessment of Age-Related Behavioral Differences in Family Dogs. Animals, 10(7), 1222. IF=2.323
  19. Bognár, Z., Piotti, P., Szabó, D., Le Nézet, L., & Kubinyi, E. (2020). A novel behavioural approach to assess responsiveness to auditory and visual stimuli before cognitive testing in family dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 228:105016. IF=1.817
  20. Jónás, D., Sándor, S., Tátrai K., Egyed, B., Kubinyi, E. (2020). A preliminary study to investigate the genetic background of longevity based on whole-genome sequence data of two Methuselah dogs. Frontiers in Genetics, 11:315. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.00315. IF(2018)=3.789
  21. Iotchev, B.I., Szabó, D., Kis, A., Kubinyi, E. (2020). Possible association between spindle frequency and reversal-learning in aged family dogs. Scientific Reports, 10:6505. IF (2018)=4.122Wallis, L., Szabo, D., Kubinyi, E. (2020). Cross-sectional age differences in canine personality traits; influence of breed, sex, previous trauma, and dog obedience tasks. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 6:493. DOI=10.3389/fvets.2019.00493. IF(2018)=2.14
  22. Wallis L.J., Iotchev I., Kubinyi, E. (2020) Assertive, trainable and older dogs are perceived as more dominant in multi-dog households. PLoS One, 15(1): e0227253. IF(2018)=2.776
  23. Smit, I. Szabo, D., Kubinyi, E. (2019). Age-related positivity effect on behavioural responses of dogs to human vocalisations. Scientific Reports, 9:20201. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-56636-z, IF (2018)=4.122Sándor, S., Kubinyi, E. (2019). Genetic pathways of aging and their relevance in the dog as a natural model of human aging. Frontiers in Genetics, 10:948, 10.3389/fgene.2019.00948 IF(2018)=3.517
  24. Iotchev, B. I., Kis, A., Turcsán, B., de Lara, D. R. T. F., Reicher, V., Kubinyi, E. (2019) Age-related differences and sexual dimorphism in canine sleep spindles. Scientific Reports, 9:10092 IF(2018)=4.122Kubinyi, E., & Wallis, L. J. (2019). Dominance in dogs as rated by owners corresponds to ethologically valid markers of dominance. PeerJ, 7:e6838. IF(2018)=2.353
  25. Piotti, P., Szabó, D., Bognár, Z., Egerer, A., Hulsbosch, P., Carson, R. S., & Kubinyi, E. (2018). Effect of age on discrimination learning, reversal learning, and cognitive bias in family dogs. Learning & Behavior, 46:537–553. IF=1.696
  26. Szabó, D., Miklósi, Á., & Kubinyi, E. (2018). Owner reported sensory impairments affect behavioural signs associated with cognitive decline in dogs. Behavioural Processes, 157:354-360. IF=2.008
  27. Wallis, L. J., Szabó, D., Erdélyi-Belle, B., & Kubinyi, E. (2018). Demographic change across the lifespan of pet dogs and their impact on health status. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5, 200. IF=2.029
  28. Bognár, Z., Iotchev, I. B., & Kubinyi, E. (2018). Sex, skull length, breed, and age predict how dogs look at faces of humans and conspecifics. Animal Cognition, 21:447–456. IF=2.448
  29. Piotti, P., Szabó, D., Wallis, L., Bognár, Z., Stiegmann, B. S., Egerer, A., Marty, P., Kubinyi, E. (2017). The effect of age on visuo-spatial short-term memory in family dogs. Pet Behaviour Science, 4:17-19.
  30. Wallis, L. J., Range, F., Kubinyi, E., Chapagain, D., Serra, J., Huber, L. (2017). Utilising dog-computer interactions to provide mental stimulation in dogs especially during ageing. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Animal-Computer Interaction(ACI2017). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 1, 12 pages. DOI: IF=2.1

Group members

Principal investigator

  • Dr. Enikő Kubinyi; E-mail:


  • Dr. Sára Sándor
  • Dr. Kálmán Czeibert
  • Dr. Borbála Turcsán
  • Dr. Dávid Jónás
  • Dr. Tamás Faragó
  • Dr. Iotchev Ivaylo

PhD students:

  • Zsófia Bognár
  • Kitti Tátrai
  • Viktória Balatonfüredi

Research assistant:

  • Pataki Natália

Worked with us for at least two years:

  • Dr. Dóra Szabó
  • Dr. Wallis Lisa
  • Dr. Piotti Patrizia
  • Dr. Boglárka Erdélyi-Belle
  • Anna Egerer
  • Soufiane Bel Rhali