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Horn L.,University of Vienna | Horn L.,Clever Dog Laboratory Society | Range F.,Clever Dog Laboratory Society | Range F.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | And 3 more authors.
Animal Cognition | Year: 2013

Both in humans and non-human animals, it has been shown that individuals attend more to those they have previously interacted with and/or they are more closely associated with than to unfamiliar individuals. Whether this preference is mediated by mere social familiarity based on exposure or by the specific relationship between the two individuals, however, remains unclear. The domestic dog is an interesting subject in this line of research as it lives in the human environment and regularly interacts with numerous humans, yet it often has a particularly close relationship with its owner. Therefore, we investigated how long dogs (Canis familiaris) would attend to the actions of two familiar humans and one unfamiliar experimenter, while varying whether dogs had a close relationship with only one or both familiar humans. Our data provide evidence that social familiarity by itself cannot account for dogs' increased attention towards their owners since they only attended more to those familiar humans with whom they also had a close relationship. © 2012 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Schmidjell T.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Schmidjell T.,University of Vienna | Schmidjell T.,Clever Dog Laboratory Society | Range F.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | And 8 more authors.
Frontiers in Psychology | Year: 2012

Dogs are exceptionally successful at interpreting human pointing gestures to locate food hidden in one of two containers. However, it has repeatedly been questioned whether dogs rely on the pointing gesture or their success is increased by subtle cues from their human handler. In two experiments we used a standard two-way object-choice task to focus on this potential Clever Hans effect.We investigated if and how owners' knowledge and beliefs influenced their dogs' performance. In two experiments, as is typical in such pointing tasks, the owners sat behind their dogs, in close auditory and tactile contact with them. In Experiment 1, we systematically manipulated the owners' knowledge of whether or not their dog should follow the pointing gesture, but at the same time instructed the owners to refrain from influencing the choice of their dog.We found no influence of subtle cues from the owners, if indeed they existed: dogs in the different groups followed the pointing uniformly. Furthermore, in the absence of pointing dogs chose randomly, even though the owners had been informed about the location of the reward. In Experiment 2, owners were instructed to actively influence the choice of their dogs, and they, indeed, succeeded in sending their dogs to the container they believed to be baited. However, their influence was significantly weaker if the experimenter had previously pointed to the other location. Overall the pointing gesture seems to have a strong effect on the choice of dogs in an object-choice task. Pointing can lead the dogs to success without help from their owners as well as it can counteract clear directional instructions provided by the owners. © 2012 Schmidjell, Range, Huber and Virányi.

Horn L.,University of Vienna | Horn L.,Clever Dog Laboratory Society | Huber L.,University of Vienna | Huber L.,Clever Dog Laboratory Society | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Background:It has been suggested that dogs display a secure base effect similar to that found in human children (i.e., using the owner as a secure base for interacting with the environment). In children, this effect influences their daily lives and importantly also their performance in cognitive testing. Here, we investigate the importance of the secure base effect for dogs in a problem-solving task.Methodology/Principal Findings:Using a manipulative task, we tested dogs in three conditions, in which we varied the owner's presence and behavior (Experiment 1: "Absent owner", "Silent owner", "Encouraging owner") and in one additional condition, in which the owner was replaced by an unfamiliar human (Experiment 2: "Replaced owner"). We found that the dogs' duration of manipulating the apparatus was longer when their owner was present than absent, irrespective of the owner's behavior. The presence of an unfamiliar human however did not increase their manipulation. Furthermore, the reduced manipulation during the absence of the owner was not correlated with the dog's degree of separation distress scored in a preceding attachment experiment.Conclusions/Significance:Our study is the first to provide evidence for an owner-specific secure base effect in dogs that extends from attachment tests to other areas of dogs' lives and also manifests itself in cognitive testing - thereby confirming the remarkable similarity between the secure base effect in dogs and in human children. These results also have important implications for behavioral testing in dogs, because the presence or absence of the owner during a test situation might substantially influence dogs' motivation and therefore the outcome of the test. © 2013 Horn et al.

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