Social learning in dogs: The effect of a human demonstrator on the performance of dogs in a detour task

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129 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We recorded the behaviour of dogs in detour tests, in which an object (a favourite toy) or food was placed behind a V-shaped fence. Dogs were able to master this task; however, they did it more easily when they started from within the fence with the object placed outside it. Repeated detours starting from within the fence did not help the dogs to obtain the object more quickly if in a subsequent trial they started outside the fence with the object placed inside it. While six trials were not enough for the dogs to show significant improvement on their own in detouring the fence from outside, demonstration of this action by humans significantly improved the dogs' performance within two-three trials. Owners and strangers were equally effective as demonstrators. Our experiments show that dogs are able to rely on information provided by human action when confronted with a new task. While they did not copy the exact path of the human demonstrator, they easily adopted the detour behaviour shown by humans to reach their goal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1109-1117
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume62
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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