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Shimabukuro C.,Canids Behavior Research Group ICOC Medical Research Institute IDIM | Putrino N.,Canids Behavior Research Group ICOC Medical Research Institute IDIM | Helbling J.,Canids Behavior Research Group ICOC Medical Research Institute IDIM | Tognetti S.,Canids Behavior Research Group ICOC Medical Research Institute IDIM | Bentosela M.,Canids Behavior Research Group ICOC Medical Research Institute IDIM
Behavioural Processes | Year: 2015

Dogs are able to solve different problems by trial and error learning, but it seems that they cannot understand the means-end connection. Some studies suggest that dogs' performance is influenced by their breed and by the level of familiarity with the person they interact with. In our study, we assess individual differences in both social and non-social responses in a problem-solving task during the acquisition, extinction, and reacquisition phases. In order to investigate the effect of familiarity, in the first experiment, the human present during the task was either a familiar (the dog's owner) or unfamiliar person. In the second experiment, we compared breeds (Retrievers and Shepherds) that had previously shown differences in a communicative task. The results revealed that all groups learned the task and became more efficient in the acquisition trials. These non-social responses diminished during extinction, where an increase in social responses was observed. With regard to individual differences, dogs were more persistent in searching the reward during the second extinction trial when the owner was present (in contrast with a stranger), and also looked longer at the unfamiliar person at the beginning of the acquisition trial. On the other hand, Retrievers showed greater social motivation during reacquisition and Shepherds picked up more bones during the third acquisition trial, thus suggesting a more persistent search of the reward. These findings highlight the relevance of studying different learning schedules as well as individual differences in problem-solving ability so as to improve selection and training techniques. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

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