Friend or foe: Context dependent sensitivity to human behaviour in dogs

Borbála Gyori, M. Gácsi, A. Miklósi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

During the course of domestication dogs (Canis familiaris) have inhabited a social field characterized by inter-specific interactions with humans. The mutually advantageous social contact between dogs and humans is facilitated by effective mechanisms that negotiate ongoing interactions and avoid the escalation of conflicts. We investigated the reaction of 37 family dogs towards the approaching owner and experimenter who communicated either threat or friendliness both in playful and non-playful situations. Dogs' behavioural responses were in accordance with the conflicting (threatening) and non-conflicting (friendly) manner of the approaching humans both in the non-playful and the playful situations. The familiarity of the interacting human partner (owner or experimenter) affected the behaviour of dogs only in the non-playful situations, where contact-seeking was less typical and gaze-averting tendencies were more pronounced towards the experimenter. The threatening approach elicited tolerant/contact-seeking reactions towards the owner in both situations and also towards the experimenter in the playful situation. But dogs were avoidant/aggressive with the experimenter in the non-playful situation. Play bows were triggered by both human partners' threatening approach, but only in the playful situation. Results suggest that this signal appears when the human partners' behaviour becomes ambiguous in relation to the social context. We propose that the flexible utilization of various conflict-resolving behaviours depending on the actual partners represent fundamental elements of dogs' social competence. These skills help dogs to manoeuvre efficiently in the course of dog-human interactions in various social contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume128
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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human behavior
Dogs
dogs
Canidae
domestication

Keywords

  • Conflict prevention
  • Dog-human communication
  • Domestication
  • Play bow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Animals

Cite this

Friend or foe : Context dependent sensitivity to human behaviour in dogs. / Gyori, Borbála; Gácsi, M.; Miklósi, A.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 128, No. 1-4, 12.2010, p. 69-77.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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