Dogs’ ability to cooperate with humans is widely acknowledged, but the factors influencing their spontaneous cooperative tendencies are largely unknown. We investigated whether breed function, training experience, and owner-reported social motivation level contribute to spontaneous dog–owner cooperation. Family dogs (N = 100) of three breed groups (non-working dogs, cooperative/independent working breeds) with various training experiences were tested in an ‘out–of–reach’ task with their owners as their partners, who never directly asked for help during the test. We measured dogs’ behaviour along three main components of successful cooperation: paying attention, understanding the problem, and willingness to cooperate. Breed groups had no significant effect on dogs’ behaviour. No factor was associated with the behavioural variables related to not understanding the task. Dogs with high training levels and high social motivation showed more attention-related behaviours and were more likely to help the owner (training level and social motivation were not correlated with each other). Our results highlight the importance of training experience and social motivation in dogs’ attentiveness and spontaneous cooperativity. This also points to the need for careful sample balancing and experimental procedures that do not rely on specific trained skills.
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