Concept: Subspecies of Canis lupus
Reputation formation is a key component in the social interactions of many animal species. An evaluation of reputation is drawn from two principal sources: direct experience of an individual and indirect experience from observing that individual interacting with a third party. In the current study we investigated whether dogs use direct and/or indirect experience to choose between two human interactants. In the first experiment, subjects had direct interaction either with a “nice” human (who played with, talked to and stroked the dog) or with an “ignoring” experimenter who ignored the dog completely. Results showed that the dogs stayed longer close to the “nice” human. In a second experiment the dogs observed a “nice” or “ignoring” human interacting with another dog. This indirect experience, however, did not lead to a preference between the two humans. These results suggest that the dogs in our study evaluated humans solely on the basis of direct experience.
Deception, the use of false signals to modify the behaviour of the receiver, occurs in low frequencies even in stable signalling systems. For example, it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to deceive in competitive situations. We investigated in a three-way choice task whether dogs are able to mislead a human competitor, i.e. if they are capable of tactical deception. During training, dogs experienced the role of their owner, as always being cooperative, and two unfamiliar humans, one acting ‘cooperatively’ by giving food and the other being ‘competitive’ and keeping the food for themselves. During the test, the dog had the options to lead one of these partners to one of the three potential food locations: one contained a favoured food item, the other a non-preferred food item and the third remained empty. After having led one of the partners, the dog always had the possibility of leading its cooperative owner to one of the food locations. Therefore, a dog would have a direct benefit from misleading the competitive partner since it would then get another chance to receive the preferred food from the owner. On the first test day, the dogs led the cooperative partner to the preferred food box more often than expected by chance and more often than the competitive partner. On the second day, they even led the competitive partner less often to the preferred food than expected by chance and more often to the empty box than the cooperative partner. These results show that dogs distinguished between the cooperative and the competitive partner, and indicate the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception.
In humans, the susceptibility to yawn contagion has been theoretically and empirically related to our capacity for empathy. Because of its relevance to evolutionary biology, this phenomenon has been the focus of recent investigations in non-human species. In line with the empathic hypothesis, contagious yawning has been shown to correlate with the level of social attachment in several primate species. Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) have also shown the ability to yawn contagiously. To date, however, the social modulation of dog contagious yawning has received contradictory support and alternative explanations (i.e., yawn as a mild distress response) could explain positive evidence. The present study aims to replicate contagious yawning in dogs and to discriminate between the two possible mediating mechanisms (i.e., empathic vs. distress related response). Twenty-five dogs observed familiar (dog’s owner) and unfamiliar human models (experimenter) acting out a yawn or control mouth movements. Concurrent physiological measures (heart rate) were additionally monitored for twenty-one of the subjects. The occurrence of yawn contagion was significantly higher during the yawning condition than during the control mouth movements. Furthermore, the dogs yawned more frequently when watching the familiar model than the unfamiliar one demonstrating that the contagiousness of yawning in dogs correlated with the level of emotional proximity. Moreover, subjects' heart rate did not differ among conditions suggesting that the phenomenon of contagious yawning in dogs is unrelated to stressful events. Our findings are consistent with the view that contagious yawning is modulated by affective components of the behavior and may indicate that rudimentary forms of empathy could be present in domesticated dogs.
Over the last 20 years, a large amount of research has been conducted in an attempt to uncover the cognitive abilities of the domestic dog. While substantial advancements have been made, progress has been impeded by the fact that little is known about how dogs visually perceive their external environment. It is imperative that future research determines more precisely canine visual processing capabilities, particularly considering the increasing number of studies assessing cognition via paradigms requiring vision. This review discusses current research on visual cognition and emphasizes the importance of understanding dog visual processing. We review several areas of vision research in domestic dogs, such as sensitivity to light, visual perspective, visual acuity, form perception, and color vision, with a focus on how these abilities may affect performance in cognition tasks. Additionally, we consider the immense diversity seen in dog morphology and explore ways in which these physical differences, particularly in facial morphology, may result in, or perhaps even be caused by, different visual processing capacities in dogs. Finally, we suggest future directions for research in dog vision and cognition.
When learning from others, human children tend to faithfully copy - or ‘overimitate’ - the actions of a demonstrator, even when these actions are irrelevant for solving the task at hand. We investigate whether domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris) and dingoes (Canis dingo) share this tendency to overimitate in three experiments. In Experiment 1, dogs and dingoes had the opportunity to solve a puzzle after watching an ostensive demonstrator who used both a relevant action and an irrelevant action. We find clear evidence against overimitation in both species. In contrast to human children (Horner & Whiten, 2005), dogs and dingoes used the irrelevant action less often across trials, suggesting that both species were filtering out the irrelevant action as they gained experience with the puzzle (like chimpanzees; Horner & Whiten, 2005). Experiments 2 and 3 provide further evidence against overimitation, demonstrating that both species' behavior is better characterized by individual exploration than overimitation. Given that both species, particularly dogs, show human-like social learning in other contexts, these findings provide additional evidence that overimitation may be a unique aspect of human social learning. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/g2mRniJZ7aU.
Cooperation by generalised reciprocity implies that individuals apply the decision rule “help anyone if helped by someone”. This mechanism has been shown to generate evolutionarily stable levels of cooperation, but as yet it is unclear how widely this cooperation mechanism is applied among animals. Dogs (Canis familiaris) are highly social animals with considerable cognitive potential and the ability to differentiate between individual social partners. But although dogs can solve complex problems, they may use simple rules for behavioural decisions. Here we show that dogs trained in an instrumental cooperative task to provide food to a social partner help conspecifics more often after receiving help from a dog before. Remarkably, in so doing they show no distinction between partners that had helped them before and completely unfamiliar conspecifics. Apparently, dogs use the simple decision rule characterizing generalised reciprocity, although they are probably capable of using the more complex decision rule of direct reciprocity: “help someone who has helped you”. However, generalized reciprocity involves lower information processing costs and is therefore a cheaper cooperation strategy. Our results imply that generalised reciprocity might be applied more commonly than direct reciprocity also in other mutually cooperating animals.
Humans accurately read other humans' emotional facial expressions. Little research was found examining human ability to read dogs' expressions. Cross-species research extended facial expression research to chimpanzees, and there is much research on dogs' auditory signaling to humans. To explore humans' ability to identify dogs' facial displays, photographs of a dog’s face were taken under behaviorally defined conditions expected to elicit specific emotions. Dog experts consistently rated these photographs. The photographs rated as best by experts were used as stimuli for people experienced and inexperienced with dogs. Both groups were able to read the dog’s emotions. Paradoxically, experienced people were less accurate reading aggressiveness. Experienced people were better identifying behaviorally defined situations. Research using behaviorally anchored, standardized photographs is recommended.
Studying cognition of domestic dogs has gone through a renaissance within the last decades. However, although the behavioral studies of dogs are beginning to be common in the field of animal cognition, the neural events underlying cognition remain unknown. Here, we employed a non-invasive electroencephalography, with adhesive electrodes attached to the top of the skin, to measure brain activity of from 8 domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) while they stayed still to observe photos of dog and human faces. Spontaneous oscillatory activity of the dogs, peaking in the sensors over the parieto-occipital cortex, was suppressed statistically significantly during visual task compared with resting activity at the frequency of 15-30 Hz. Moreover, a stimulus-induced low-frequency (∼2-6 Hz) suppression locked to the stimulus onset was evident at the frontal sensors, possibly reflecting a motor rhythm guiding the exploratory eye movements. The results suggest task-related reactivity of the macroscopic oscillatory activity in the dog brain. To our knowledge, the study is the first to reveal non-invasively measured reactivity of brain electrophysiological oscillations in healthy dogs, and it has been based purely on positive operant conditional training, without the need for movement restriction or medication.
Stress-affected behaviour in companion animals can have an adverse effect on animal health and welfare and their relationships with humans. This stress can be addressed using chemical treatments, often in conjunction with behavioural therapies. Here, we investigated the efficacy of one commercial pharmacological intervention, Pet Remedy, advertised as a natural stress relief product for mammals. We aimed to see whether the product lowered stress-affected behaviour in dogs placed in a non-familiar environment. Behavioural responses of 28 dogs were video recorded using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, and counterbalanced repeated measures design. Dogs were exposed to both a placebo and Pet Remedy plug-in diffuser for 30 min with an intervening period of approximately 7 days between conditions. Multivariate regression analysis identified no significant differences in behaviour in either the Pet Remedy or placebo condition. In conclusion, in the current study, Pet Remedy did not reduce behavioural indicators indicative of a stress response. To determine the effects of Pet Remedy, future research using a larger sample size and controlling for breed would be beneficial.
Several studies have examined dogs' (Canis lupus familiaris) comprehension and use of human communicative cues. Relatively few studies have, however, examined the effects of human affective behavior (i.e., facial and vocal expressions) on dogs' exploratory and point-following behavior. In two experiments, we examined dogs' frequency of following an adult’s pointing gesture in locating a hidden reward or treat when it occurred silently, or when it was paired with a positive or negative facial and vocal affective expression. Like prior studies, the current results demonstrate that dogs reliably follow human pointing cues. Unlike prior studies, the current results also demonstrate that the addition of a positive affective facial and vocal expression, when paired with a pointing gesture, did not reliably increase dogs' frequency of locating a hidden piece of food compared to pointing alone. In addition, and within the negative facial and vocal affect conditions of Experiment 1 and 2, dogs were delayed in their exploration, or approach, toward a baited or sham-baited bowl. However, in Experiment 2, dogs continued to follow an adult’s pointing gesture, even when paired with a negative expression, as long as the attention-directing gesture referenced a baited bowl. Together these results suggest that the addition of affective information does not significantly increase or decrease dogs' point-following behavior. Rather these results demonstrate that the presence or absence of affective expressions influences a dogs' exploratory behavior and the presence or absence of reward affects whether they will follow an unfamiliar adult’s attention-directing gesture.