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We have collected the most frequently asked questions to researchers. Click on the question!

What is ethology?

Ethology is a biologically based science concerned with the study of behaviour in nature. This is why it is strange that many people use the term "dog psychology", even though the subject of "psychological science" is in many ways different from that of ethology. The first step is to define what we call behaviour. A common definition is that behaviour is an internally coordinated response action (or lack of action) that occurs in response to internal or external stimuli. It is worth adding that anything can only be called behaviour if it is directly observable by humans (researchers).
When the researcher focuses his investigations on a particular behaviour, he can basically look for answers to four types of questions, each of which is in fact looking for the causes of the behaviour.
Read the article by Professor Ádám Miklósi, Head of the Department of Ethology at ELTE:

Dog Ethology Part 1.

Dog Ethology Part 2.

How can I become an ethologist?

In Hungary, only our department is currently specialised in teaching and researching ethology, and our staff teach almost all branches of ethology in various courses.

If you want to become an ethologist because you are interested in animal and human behaviour, it is best to enrol in a bachelor's degree in biology first. After completing the 3-year bachelor's degree, you will need to study for 2 years in the Master's degree in biology, while those who go to ELTE can write their thesis on ethology in our department. In fact, an ethologist's training at the Doctoral School of Biology ends with the completion of a further 3-year programme, but this requires a successful BSc and MSc degree, excellent research skills, adequate English language skills and a respect and love of scientific research.

You can apply to the Doctoral School with any tertiary degree, but in our experience a degree in a specialist field is a significant advantage.
We do not currently offer talent development below secondary school level, but we welcome children in our programmes.

We recommend reading these articles to familiarise yourself with the work of the department:

Topál, J., Miklósi, Á., Csányi, V., Dóka, A. 1998. Attachment behaviour in dogs: a new application of Ainsworth’s (1969) Strange Situation Test. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 112: 219-229.

Miklósi, Á., Polgárdi, R., Topál, J., Csányi, V. 2000. Intentional behaviour in dog-human communication: An experimental analysis of ‘showing’ behaviour in the dog. Animal Cognition, 3: 159-166.

Pongrácz, P., Miklósi, Á., Kubinyi, E., Gurobi, K., Topál, J., Csányi, V. 2001. Social learning in dogs: The effect of a human demonstrator on the performance of dogs (Canis familiaris) in a detour task. Animal Behaviour, 62: 1109-1117.

Soproni, K., Miklósi, Á., Topál, J., Csányi, V. 2002. Dogs’ responsiveness to human pointing gestures. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 116: 27-34.

Miklósi, Á., Kubinyi E., Topál, J., Gácsi, M., Virányi, Zs., Csányi, V. 2003. A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans but dogs do. Current Biology, 13: 763-766.

Vas, J., Topál, J., Gácsi, M., Miklósi, Á., Csányi, V. 2005. A friend or an enemy? Dogs’ reaction to an unfamiliar person showing behavioural cues of threat and friendliness at different times. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 94: 99-115.

Pongrácz, P., Miklósi, Á., Molnár, Cs., Csányi, V. 2005. Human listeners are able to classify dog barks recorded in different situations. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119: 136-144.

Topál, J., Gergely, Gy., Erdőhegyi, Á., Csibra, G., Miklósi, Á. 2009. Differential sensitivity to human communication in dogs, wolves, and human infants. Science, 325: 1269-1272.

Faragó, T., Pongrácz, P., Range, F., Virányi, Zs., Miklósi, Á. 2010. ‘The bone is mine’: affective and referential aspects of dog growls. Animal Behaviour, 79: 917-925.

Miklósi, Á., Topál, J. 2013. What does it take to become ‘best friends’? Evolutionary changes in canine social competence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17: 287-294.

Andics, A., Miklósi, Á. 2018. Neural processes of vocal social perception: Dog-human comparative fMRI studies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 85: 54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.11.017)

Where can I meet researchers to talk about dogs, cats and animals?

For information about the public programmes of the Department of Ethology at ELTE, please visit the following pages:

Where can I apply to be a researcher?

Find the email addresses of the Theme Leaders under Research or Staff, or contact

How do we educate people about humane, positive dog training?

Since dog training is, by its very nature, largely business-based, there is very little "science-based" dog training. Unfortunately, the Department of Ethology is not in a position to determine who and on what subject can hold dog shows in Hungary, and as ethologists it is not our duty to analyse and compare the different trends. Of course, we consider the dissemination of knowledge important, which is why we report annually on the latest scientific results in our lectures for farmers, but we do not issue such statements in specific cases. It is a very good service, however, if as many people as possible get personally involved in raising awareness, and we encourage you to do so!

I have problems with my dog, what can I do?

For dogs and cats with behavioural problems, we recommend contacting dog schools, trainers, behaviour therapists (e.g. Best Dog, SciDog, Top Mancs) and arrange a personal meeting where the dog and, if possible, its living conditions can be discussed with a professional. The majority of the staff in the Ethology Department have no experience as dog trainers or trained as behavioural therapists. The development and treatment of problems depends on a myriad of factors, so even with experience, it is not possible to give reliable advice from a distance, even on the basis of an e-mail or a telephone call.

Did my dog behave well in the test?

As many people ask us after a test we have done, "Did your dog behave well?" and "What came out?", we would like to answer these questions briefly.

First of all, we would like to stress that it is very rare (in an ethological test) to say that the dog behaved "well." Ethologists are not really interested in whether the animal was able to get the ball, for example, or whether it found the reward in the pot, and how many times, and so on. More "exciting" questions might be why the dog behaved in a particular situation, what strategies dogs use in a specific context, and what influences their behavior, and what conclusions can be drawn about human behavior, for example, or even evolution. Therefore, no owner should be sad if their dog does not behave like the others or as we would expect. This does not mean, of course, that all behavior should be praised, as it is obviously not a good idea to reward or reinforce aggressive behavior towards humans, for example.

The second question is a little more difficult to answer. "What came out?" is something that we can rarely say with certainty. This is because the video-recorded tests must first be coded and analyzed, and only then can the researcher see exactly what the result is. Individual assessment is further complicated by the fact that in most cases the data are processed at the group level, not the individual level. This should be understood as comparing, for example, the behavior of female and male dogs in a given test, and not, for example, Bux and Rex. Thus, information about how a particular dog "performed" in the test can be said to be more about how they behaved in relation to the others.

Of course, this does not mean that there is no way for the owner to get some kind of evaluation of their dog, if they wish. We would ask owners who wish to have such an assessment to make this known to the researcher conducting the test.

Finally, we would like to thank once again all the kind dog owners and dog lovers who have generously contributed to our research and our efforts to learn more about dog behavior, and perhaps to learn more about our own species, humans! We still welcome enthusiastic applicants who would like to take part in a test at the Department of Ethology at ELTE!

How can you find out the results of research?

The Department may publish the summarised results of the research - anonymously for the dogs and their owners, in compliance with the relevant data protection law and research regulations - in national and international journals and present them to the public via educational channels (e.g. television, radio, internet). If you are interested in the work and scientific results of the Department, you can visit the website of the Department of Ethology of the ELTE, read the latest news on the Family Dog Programme Facebook page or join the Senior Family Dog Programme Facebook group.