What counts for dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) in a quantity discrimination task?

Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini, Clive Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Numerous studies have reported that animals reliably discriminate quantities of more or less food. However, little attention has been given to the relative salience of numerosity compared to the total amount of food when animals are making their choices. Here we investigated this issue in dogs. Dogs were given choices between two quantities of food items in three different conditions. In the Congruent condition, the total amount of food co-varied with the number of food items; in the Incongruent condition the total amount was pitted against the numerosity; and in the Controlled condition the total amount between the sets was equal. Results show that dogs based their choice on the total amount of edible food rather than on the number of food items, suggesting that, in food choice tasks, amount counts more than number. The presence of the largest individual item in a set did not bias dogs' choices. A control test excluded the possibility that dogs based their choices on olfactory cues alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-97
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural processes
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Cognition
  • Dog
  • Numerical competence
  • Quantity discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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