The study of the Eötvös University, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Oxford University showed that it is possible to determine the social ranking and personality traits of each dog from their GPS movement data. On individual walks it is hard to identify one permanent leader, but over longer timescales it soon becomes clear that some dogs are followed by peers more often than others. Overall, the collective motion of the pack is strongly influenced by an underlying social network.
Dogs that consistently took the lead were more responsive to training, more controllable, older and more aggressive than the dogs that tended to follow. Dogs that led more often had higher dominance ranks in everyday situations, assessed by a dominance questionnaire.
On average, an individual took the role of the leader in a given pair in about three quarters of the time during walks. Using this qualitative data over longer time scales allows researchers to see the more subtle relationships that might otherwise be missed. Of course, hierarchies are likely to vary across breeds and individual groups, so we hope to use this technology on other animals in future to investigate further.
Reuters video: http://reut.rs/1msA111
More info on the project's website: http://bit.ly/1fXHCMR
Journal reference: Ákos et al., 2014, PLOS CB, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003446