When do domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, start to understand human pointing? The role of ontogeny in the development of interspecies communication

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

A decade of research indicates that domestic dogs are sensitive to a variety of human social cues, including pointing with the hand and arm. Previous studies conducted with puppies as young as 6 weeks old have reported that puppies are able to follow a human pointing gesture, even when they have had little human contact. These results have led some experimenters to conclude that ontogeny does not contribute to dogs' ability to understand human cues. To determine the age at which domestic dogs first show the ability to understand human pointing cues, we tested puppies in their human caregivers' homes when the puppies were 9-24 weeks old. We found little evidence that puppies younger than 21 weeks had the ability to follow human pointing gestures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-41
Number of pages5
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume79
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Canis
  • dog
  • human gesture
  • momentary proximal point
  • puppy
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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