Dogs’ (: Influence of Breed Groups and Life ExperiencesCanis familiaris: Influence of Breed Groups and Life Experiences) Attention to Human Perception: Influence of Breed Groups and Life Experiences

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Abstract

Attending to the perception of others may help individuals gaining information from conspecifics, or help in competitive situations. Dogs (Canis familiaris) are attentive to humans’ signals and their attentional state. We investigated whether dogs of different breed groups differ in their ability to pay attention to human’s perception, first according to the genetic relatedness between dog breeds, and second according to working style differences. Once dogs had learned to leave forbidden food on the floor, they were confronted with 2 food items to which only they had unrestricted visual access. The owners saw either none or 1 food item through a transparent barrier. Our results showed that dogs pay attention to the perception of humans, whereby differences between breed groups became obvious. Within different genetic groups, ancient and hunting type dogs performed similarly, they were more attentive to their owners’ perception than shepherd and the mastiff type dogs. When comparing dogs classified according to their working style, independent workers and family dogs were attentive to the owner’s perception, while cooperative workers seemed not. The dogs’ choice could not be explained by a general or training induced preference for eating behind an opaque screen, or by an influence of the owner’s possible intention to prevent the dog from taking the food item he could see. Our study confirms that dogs are attentive/sensitive to human’s perception, but genetic and working style differences among the breeds, as well as dog sport experiences explain part of the variation seen in their performance.

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