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Development of point following behaviors in shelter dogs.

Authors
  • Jarvis, Tatjana1
  • Hall, Nathanial J2
  • 1 Department of Animal and Food Science, Texas Tech University, 1308 Indiana Ave, Lubbock, 79409, USA. , (India)
  • 2 Department of Animal and Food Science, Texas Tech University, 1308 Indiana Ave, Lubbock, 79409, USA. [email protected] , (India)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Learning & behavior
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2020
Volume
48
Issue
3
Pages
335–343
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-020-00415-8
PMID: 32043270
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Pet dogs are known to be responsive to human pointing gestures, but shelter dogs have repeatedly demonstrated poor abilities to follow human pointing, although they can be explicitly trained quickly. This study evaluated the time course in which shelter dogs learn to follow points without explicit training, when given typical interactions with humans. In a longitudinal evaluation, the development of point following was tracked in seven shelter dogs in a training program (enriched human exposure), seven dogs in a traditional shelter (control population), and evaluated once in pet dogs. Twice a week for 6 weeks, shelter dogs' point-following performance was evaluated in 10 probe trials in which an experimenter pointed to one of two containers equidistant from the dog. To avoid direct training, dogs were given a treat for approaching and touching either container; although correct responses were recorded for touching the pointed-towards container within 30 s. Pet dogs were tested in only one session. All shelter dogs initially showed the expected poor performance. However, enriched shelter dogs receiving enriched human exposure showed significant improvements reaching an identical performance to pet dogs within 7 weeks. In comparison, shelter dogs under standard conditions showed an initial improvement, but performance reached asymptote close to chance levels and lower than that of enriched dogs or pet dogs. Together, these results suggest that enriched experiences with humans, typical of pet dogs, is sufficient for dogs to learn to follow points without explicit training.

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