The effect of development and individual differences in pointing comprehension of dogs

M. Gácsi, Edina Kara, Bea Belényi, J. Topál, A. Miklósi

Research output: Article

67 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In spite of the rather different procedures actually used in comparative studies to test the ability of different species to rely on the human pointing gesture, there is no debate on the high performance of dogs in such tasks. Very little is known, however, on the course through which they acquire this ability or the probable factors influencing the process. Important developmental questions have remained unsolved and also some methodological concerns should be addressed before we can convincingly argue for one interpretation or another. In this study we tested 180 dogs of different age (from 2 months to adults) to investigate their performance in the human distal momentary pointing gesture. The results, analyzed at both the group and the individual levels, showed no difference in the performance according to age, indicating that in dogs the comprehension of the human pointing may require only very limited and rapid early learning to fully develop. Interestingly, neither the keeping conditions nor the time spent in active interaction with the owner, and not even some special (agility) training for using human visual cues, had significant effect on the success and explained individual differences. The performance of the dogs was rather stable over time: during the 20 trials within a session and even when subsamples of different age were repeatedly tested. Considering that in spite of the general success at the group level, more than half of the dogs were not successful at the individual level, we revealed alternative "decision-making rules" other than following the pointing gesture of the experimenter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - máj. 2009

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Individuality
Gestures
Dogs
dogs
Aptitude
visual cue
Cues
decision making
comparative study
Decision Making
learning
dog
effect
Learning
testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

The effect of development and individual differences in pointing comprehension of dogs. / Gácsi, M.; Kara, Edina; Belényi, Bea; Topál, J.; Miklósi, A.

In: Animal Cognition, Vol. 12, No. 3, 05.2009, p. 471-479.

Research output: Article

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