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Dog (Canis familiaris) – Human Communication: Domestication Effects, Showing, Perception Understanding and Deception


Heberlein, Marianne T E. Dog (Canis familiaris) – Human Communication: Domestication Effects, Showing, Perception Understanding and Deception. 2017, University of Zurich, Faculty of Science.

Abstract

Living together with animals is cultural tradition among humans stretching back though out history. Therefore, it is not a surprise that some communication exists between these animals and humans. Domestication might have facilitated the animal’s understanding of human communicative signals. Dogs (Canis familiaris) seem to be especially skilful, and outperform apes in many tasks involving the understanding of human signals. However, also adult wolves (Canis lupus), the closed living ancestor of dog, show some capabilities in understanding human communication, which questions domestication as the only reason for the dogs extraordinary skills. The aim of this dissertation is to provide further insight into dog-human communication, the dog’s ability to understand its human partner, the intentionality of communicating, the understanding of the humans and conspecifics perception, and deceptive behaviour towards humans, while considering domestication, artificial selection, and experience effects. Pet dogs, pack dogs, and wolves (pack dogs and wolves having been raised and living under the same conditions) were confronted with the task to indicate a food location to either an uninformed human cooperator or competitor. Both dogs and wolves showed more gaze alternation and other food-directing behaviours in the presence of the cooperative than in the presence of the competitive partner. The pet dogs also used more misleading signals directing to an empty hiding place in the presence of a competitive partner and indicated the food location to the cooperator more than pack dogs. This finding suggests that dogs and wolves have an understanding about the role of the two partners and further, based on the results of the pet dogs, they might possess an understanding about the competitive partner’s intention to eat the hidden food. Based on the similar performance between pack dogs and wolves, as well as the difference between pack dogs and pet dogs it seems that rather life experiences than domestication is driving the dogs abilities in understanding human communication. Life experience was also influencing the dog’s attentiveness to human perception. Beside experience, genetic differences and working style played a role with being more attentive when assigned to the ancient or hunting dog type, or to the independent working or family dog style. However, when tested with a dominant conspecific no such breed group difference was found, but in both cases, when tested with a human or with a conspecific, the sensitivity to the perception of other could be confirmed. In competitive situations it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to be able to deceive. When pet dogs are confronted with the task to guide a cooperative and a competitive human partner to one of three potential food locations (one containing the preferred, one the non-preferred food and one is remaining empty), they led from the first day on the cooperative partner to the preferred food box more often than expected by chance and more often than the competitive partner. The competitive partner, however, was led to the preferred food as often as expected by chance. During the second test day the effect was even stronger. These results indicate the flexibility of the dogs’ behaviour and suggest that they are able to perform tactical deception. The different studies revealed that when intensively socialised with humans and tested at an adult age no difference could be found between dogs and wolves raised and kept under the same circumstances. Therefore, domestication alone was not driving the dog’s more pronounced ability in communicating with humans. However, breed group differences as well as life-long experiences with humans substantially influence the dog’s performance in communicative tasks with humans. This emphasizes the importance to consider these effects in further studies on this topic.

Abstract

Living together with animals is cultural tradition among humans stretching back though out history. Therefore, it is not a surprise that some communication exists between these animals and humans. Domestication might have facilitated the animal’s understanding of human communicative signals. Dogs (Canis familiaris) seem to be especially skilful, and outperform apes in many tasks involving the understanding of human signals. However, also adult wolves (Canis lupus), the closed living ancestor of dog, show some capabilities in understanding human communication, which questions domestication as the only reason for the dogs extraordinary skills. The aim of this dissertation is to provide further insight into dog-human communication, the dog’s ability to understand its human partner, the intentionality of communicating, the understanding of the humans and conspecifics perception, and deceptive behaviour towards humans, while considering domestication, artificial selection, and experience effects. Pet dogs, pack dogs, and wolves (pack dogs and wolves having been raised and living under the same conditions) were confronted with the task to indicate a food location to either an uninformed human cooperator or competitor. Both dogs and wolves showed more gaze alternation and other food-directing behaviours in the presence of the cooperative than in the presence of the competitive partner. The pet dogs also used more misleading signals directing to an empty hiding place in the presence of a competitive partner and indicated the food location to the cooperator more than pack dogs. This finding suggests that dogs and wolves have an understanding about the role of the two partners and further, based on the results of the pet dogs, they might possess an understanding about the competitive partner’s intention to eat the hidden food. Based on the similar performance between pack dogs and wolves, as well as the difference between pack dogs and pet dogs it seems that rather life experiences than domestication is driving the dogs abilities in understanding human communication. Life experience was also influencing the dog’s attentiveness to human perception. Beside experience, genetic differences and working style played a role with being more attentive when assigned to the ancient or hunting dog type, or to the independent working or family dog style. However, when tested with a dominant conspecific no such breed group difference was found, but in both cases, when tested with a human or with a conspecific, the sensitivity to the perception of other could be confirmed. In competitive situations it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to be able to deceive. When pet dogs are confronted with the task to guide a cooperative and a competitive human partner to one of three potential food locations (one containing the preferred, one the non-preferred food and one is remaining empty), they led from the first day on the cooperative partner to the preferred food box more often than expected by chance and more often than the competitive partner. The competitive partner, however, was led to the preferred food as often as expected by chance. During the second test day the effect was even stronger. These results indicate the flexibility of the dogs’ behaviour and suggest that they are able to perform tactical deception. The different studies revealed that when intensively socialised with humans and tested at an adult age no difference could be found between dogs and wolves raised and kept under the same circumstances. Therefore, domestication alone was not driving the dog’s more pronounced ability in communicating with humans. However, breed group differences as well as life-long experiences with humans substantially influence the dog’s performance in communicative tasks with humans. This emphasizes the importance to consider these effects in further studies on this topic.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation
Referees:Bräuer Juliane
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:June 2017
Deposited On:15 Jan 2018 09:35
Last Modified:19 Mar 2018 09:50
Number of Pages:158
OA Status:Closed

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