Obey or Not Obey? Dogs (Canis familiaris) Behave Differently in Response to Attentional States of Their Owners

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Abstract

Sixteen domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) were tested in a familiar context in a series of 1-min trials on how well they obeyed after being told by their owner to lie down. Food was used in 1/3 of all trials, and during the trial the owner engaged in 1 of 5 activities. The dogs behaved differently depending on the owner's attention to them. When being watched by the owner, the dogs stayed lying down most often and/or for the longest time compared with when the owner read a book, watched TV, turned his or her back on them, or left the room. These results indicate that the dogs sensed the attentional state of their owners by judging observable behavioral cues such as eye contact and eye, head, and body orientation.

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