Do dogs infer the location of food based on others' action? (#509)
Dogs are excellent readers of social cues from humans. They may excessively depend on such cues in the presence of conflicting physical cues. For example, Szetei et al. (2003) showed that dogs tended to choose the empty container humans pointed irrespective of olfactory cues to find hidden food. However few studies have asked whether such tendency is specific to humans-given cues or general to all social cues. In this report we investigated whether dogs could infer the location of food by observing humans’ or conspecifics’ action. First, the experimenter showed the participant dog two opaque containers having the same food reward in each. After placing the containers sideways, a demonstrator was led to one of the containers and ate the reward from there (Experiment1) or did not eat it (Experiment2), while the participant watched the event. The demonstrator was another experimenter in the Human condition and another dog in the Conspecific condition. After the whole event, we released the participant to record which container he/she chose. Four trials were tested for each participant. Although dogs in the Human condition tended to choose the container the demonstrator had visited in both Experiments (p<0.05, Wilcoxon signed-rank test), this tendency was significantly weakened in Experiment 1 than in Experiment 2 (p<0.05, U test). This result suggests that although dogs have a strong tendency to follow humans, it may be mildly corrected by inferring which container had food intact in Experiment 1. In contrast, the dogs chose randomly in the Conspecific condition. It is likely that the tendency dogs give priority to social cues over well-known physical ones is limited to humans.
- Szetei, V., Miklósi, Á ., Topál, J., & Csányi V. (2003). When dogs seem to lose their nose: an investigation on the use of visual and olfactory cues in communicative context between dog and owner. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 83, 141-152．