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Social eavesdropping in the domestic dog

By S. Marshall-Pescini, C. Passalacqua, A. Ferrario, P. Valsecchi, E. Prato-Previde

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Eavesdropping on third-party interactions has been observed in a number of species and is considered an important source of information in decision-making processes relating to fighting and mate choice. Human beings, however, use publicly available information flexibly in many different contexts including assessing others' altruistic tendencies, which may in turn inform their choice of the most appropriate cooperative partner. We assessed whether dogs, Canis familiaris, were capable of discerning a generous versus selfish food-sharing interaction between humans, and investigated which communicative cues (voice versus gestures) may be more salient for them. Importantly a control condition was included to ascertain whether it was in fact the interaction between individuals as opposed to the direct actions of the actors that the dogs evaluated. We found that the dogs were capable of eavesdropping on human food-sharing interactions, and vocal communication was particularly important to convey the human's cooperative versus noncooperative intent.

Date 2011
Publication Title Animal Behaviour
Volume 81
Issue 6
Pages 1177-1183
ISBN/ISSN 0003-3472
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.02.029
Language English
Author Address Sezione di Psicologia, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biomediche, Universita di Milano, Via Fratelli Cervi 93, 20090 Segrate (MI), Italy.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal communication
  3. Animal experimentation
  4. Animal research
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Carnivores
  7. Communication
  8. Dogs
  9. Fighting
  10. Hearing
  11. Mammals
  12. Mating behavior
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Pets and companion animals
  15. Social behavior
  16. sounds
  17. training of animals
  1. peer-reviewed