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Waiting for more: the performance of domestic dogs ( Canis familiaris) on exchange tasks

By R. J. Leonardi, S. J. Vick, V. Dufour

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Five domestic dogs ( Canis familiaris) were tested in a cooperative exchange task with an experimenter, as previously tested in non-human primates. In the first task, the dogs exchanged to maximise payoffs when presented with food items of differing quality. All consistently exchanged lower-value for higher-value rewards, as determined by their individual food preference, and exchanges corresponded significantly with the spontaneous preferences of three dogs. Next, all subjects demonstrated an ability to perform two and three exchanges in succession, to gain both qualitative and quantitatively increased rewards (group mean=72 and 92% successful triple exchanges, respectively). Finally, the ability to delay gratification over increasing intervals was tested; the dogs kept one food item to exchange later for a larger item. As previously reported in non-human primates, there was considerable individual variation in the tolerance of delays, between 10 s and 10 min for the largest rewards. For those who reached longer time lags (>40 s), the dogs gave up the chance to exchange earlier than expected by each subject's general waiting capacity; the dogs anticipated delay duration and made decisions according to the relative reward values offered. Compared to primates, dogs tolerated relatively long delays for smaller value rewards, suggesting that the socio-ecological history of domestic dogs facilitates their performance on decision-making and delay of gratification tasks.

Publication Title Animal Cognition
Volume 15
Issue 1
Pages 107-120
Language English
Author Address Psychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Canidae
  4. Canine
  5. Carnivores
  6. Decision making
  7. Dogs
  8. Food preferences
  9. Mammals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Pets and companion animals
  12. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed