What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs' sensitivity to human actions

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

147 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Over the last two decades increasing evidence for an acute sensitivity to human gestures and attentional states in domestic dogs has led to a burgeoning of research into the social cognition of this highly familiar yet previously under-studied animal. Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) have been shown to be more successful than their closest relative (and wild progenitor) the wolf, and than man's closest relative, the chimpanzee, on tests of sensitivity to human social cues, such as following points to a container holding hidden food. The "Domestication Hypothesis" asserts that during domestication dogs evolved an inherent sensitivity to human gestures that their non-domesticated counterparts do not share. According to this view, sensitivity to human cues is present in dogs at an early age and shows little evidence of acquisition during ontogeny. A closer look at the findings of research on canine domestication, socialization, and conditioning, brings the assumptions of this hypothesis into question. We propose the Two Stage Hypothesis, according to which the sensitivity of an individual animal to human actions depends on acceptance of humans as social companions, and conditioning to follow human limbs. This offers a more parsimonious explanation for the domestic dog's sensitivity to human gestures, without requiring the use of additional mechanisms. We outline how tests of this new hypothesis open directions for future study that offer promise of a deeper understanding of mankind's oldest companion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-345
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Reviews
Volume85
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

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domestication
Animals
Dogs
dogs
Gestures
Containers
conditioned behavior
Cues
Pan troglodytes
Socialization
Domestication
Canis lupus
Research
wolves
Cognition
limbs (animal)
Canidae
cognition
Extremities
containers

Keywords

  • Canine evolution
  • Canis lupus
  • Canis lupus familiaris
  • Conditioning
  • Dog
  • Domestication
  • Object choice paradigm
  • Social cognition
  • Socialization
  • Two Stage Hypothesis
  • Wolf

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs' sensitivity to human actions. / Udell, Monique A R; Dorey, Nicole R.; Wynne, Clive.

In: Biological Reviews, Vol. 85, No. 2, 05.2010, p. 327-345.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Udell, Monique A R ; Dorey, Nicole R. ; Wynne, Clive. / What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs' sensitivity to human actions. In: Biological Reviews. 2010 ; Vol. 85, No. 2. pp. 327-345.
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