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A comparison of pet and purpose-bred research dog ( Canis familiaris) performance on human-guided object-choice tasks

By L. Lazarowski, D. C. Dorman

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Several studies have shown that domestic dogs respond to human social cues such as pointing. Some experiments have shown that pet dogs outperformed wolves in following a momentary distal point. These findings have lent support to the hypothesis that domestication is responsible for domestic dogs' ability to utilize human gestures. Other studies demonstrating comparable performance in human-socialized wolves suggest this skill depends on experience with relevant human stimuli. However, domestic dogs lacking thorough exposure to humans are underrepresented in the comparative literature. The goal of this study was to evaluate pet and kennel-reared research domestic dogs on their ability to follow two types of point in an object-choice task. This study used young adult, intact male research dogs ( n=11) and a comparison group of pet dogs living in human homes ( n=9). We found that while pet dogs followed the momentary distal point above chance levels, research dogs did not. Both groups followed the simpler dynamic proximal point; however, pet dogs outperformed research dogs on this task. Our results indicate that ontogenetic experiences may influence a domestic dog's ability to use human gestures, highlighting the importance of testing different sub-populations of domestic dogs.

Publication Title Behavioural Processes
Volume 110
Pages 60-67
ISBN/ISSN 0376-6357
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.021
Language English
Author Address Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh, North Carolina,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal experimentation
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Animals
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Dogs
  9. Domestication
  10. Environment
  11. Factors
  12. Humans
  13. Kennels
  14. Mammals
  15. ontogeny
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. Pets and companion animals
  18. Physiology and biochemistry
  19. responses
  20. stimuli
  21. vertebrates
  22. Wolves
  1. peer-reviewed