Max Planck researchers found that dogs and puppies can locate hidden food by using human voice direction referentially
Dogs and puppies are gifted at interpreting human communicative hints, and previous studies showed that they use human visual cues like pointing or gazing in order to find hidden food. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now studied for the first time whether dogs can locate hidden food by relying on auditory information alone.
In an experimental setting, an experimenter went behind a barrier and presented adult dogs and puppies with two identical boxes, but only one of them contained food. From behind the barrier, hidden from the dog’s sight, the experimenter vocalized excitedly while looking towards the box containing food. Most adult dogs and socialized puppies successfully followed the direction of the experimenter’s voice to the food source; the puppies even beat the adult dogs in this task.
The researchers conclude that dogs do not rely on visual cues only, but on a combination of human communicative hints. These social skills may have become part of the dog’s genetic make-up during domestication.
Dogs and puppies are particularly skilled in using human communicative cues like pointing or gazing, especially when it comes to locating hidden food. Wolves, dogs’ closest relative, and chimpanzees on the other hand are unable to use these cues to the same end.
Recent studies explored the ability of children and chimpanzees to follow human voice direction to a target, like a toy or food item, and found that while 1-year-old children succeeded, chimpanzees did not. In their current study Federico Rossano and colleagues have now investigated for the first time whether adult dogs and dog puppies are capable of this as well.
The researchers placed a large wooden barrier in the room and used two identical containers for hiding the food. After showing the food to the dog, the experimenter closed a curtain, hid the food in one of the boxes and opened the curtain again: Both containers were now visible to the dog. The experimenter then sat down behind the barrier facing the box with the food reward and expressed her excitement verbally. The experimenter then released the dog so he could choose one of the containers.
“Most of the dogs successfully and repeatedly followed the experimenter’s voice direction to find the hidden food”, says Rossano. “They performed as well in this task - if not better – than human infants.” In a follow up study the researchers ruled out the possibility that dogs could locate the hidden food just via smell.
In a second part of the study puppies of eight to 14 weeks of age took part in the same test. While some of these puppies had interacted with humans regularly, others had had little contact to humans. “The puppies, too, were able to use the human’s voice direction to find the hidden food”, says Rossano. “Interestingly, the group of normally socialized puppies even outperformed the adult dogs while the ones with little contact with humans performed at chance level.”
The results of these studies show that dogs and puppies use several human communicative cues or a combination of them in flexible ways to find hidden food, and that they learn these skills very quickly once they get in touch with humans. “Dogs may have been selected for their ability to pay special attention to humans”, says Rossano. “This set of social skills may have become part of their genetic repertoire”.
Dr. Federico Rossano | Max-Planck-Institute
Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg
Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences