Dogs are able to generalise directional acoustic signals to different contexts and tasks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous studies suggested that dogs are able to use both egocentric and allocentric cues spontaneously in specified spatial tasks. They can also learn rapidly 'go-left/go-right' tasks based on stimulus location but relying on stimulus quality. At the same time, relatively little research has looked at the possibility of whether dogs are able to solve a spatial problem based on previously trained signals in novel situations. In the present study we have examined whether dogs are able to rely on quality differences in sound stimuli for directional behaviour and to generalise this rule in different field conditions. First, we trained 16 adult pet dogs in the lab to go left and right based upon qualitatively different sound signals. After having reached the criterion, subjects participated in five field test sessions that included several novel targets (balls/trees/humans) at different distances (7-18. m) and angular deviations (36°-87°). We wanted to see whether these aspects of the novel context affect the dogs' performance. After having reached the criterion, subjects participated in five field test sessions that included several novel targets at different distances and angular deviations. The test sessions were followed by a control session in the laboratory in order to exclude the Clever Hans effect. We found that dogs chose the target object that matched the sound signal significantly above the chance level in each test condition and also in the Clever Hans control. Their performance was not affected by different targets and distances, but decreased as a function of angular deviation. These results suggest that dogs are able to learn the 'go left/go right' task based on qualitatively different sounds and utilise this rule in novel situations. The angular deviation in choosing the correct target direction proved to be an important factor in the dogs' performance in a novel context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-61
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume156
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Dog
  • Dog training
  • Generalisation
  • Spatial navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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