The performance of stray dogs (Canis familiaris) living in a shelter on human-guided object-choice tasks

Monique A.R. Udell, Nicole R. Dorey, Clive D.L. Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

73 Scopus citations

Abstract

A decade of research on domestic dogs' responsiveness to human actions has led some to believe that all members of the species Canis familiaris possess a human-like social cognition not shared by their nondomesticated relatives. However, comparative studies on diverse populations of domestic dog are lacking, making species-wide generalizations premature. In this study we present the performance of one under-represented population, stray dogs living in shelters, on a human-guided object-choice task. Unlike pet dogs, shelter dogs universally failed to follow a momentary distal point to a target location in initial tests, although they were able to follow a simpler form of human point on the same task. Furthermore, the majority of subjects learned to follow a momentary distal point to a target when given additional training trials (experiment 2). Dogs' sensitivity to human gestures may not be entirely explained by phylogenetic variables; rather, the interactions between genetic, developmental and experiential variables must be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-725
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume79
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Canis familiaris
  • Two Stage hypothesis
  • domestic dog
  • human pointing gesture
  • learning
  • object-choice task
  • shelter dog
  • social cognition
  • stray dog

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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