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Behav Processes. 2010 Jul;84(3):721-5. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2010.04.010. Epub 2010 May 11.

Characterization of human-dog social interaction using owner report.

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M.I.N.D. Institute and Department of Neurology, University of California at Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.


Dog owners were surveyed for observations of social behaviors in their dogs, using questions adapted from the human Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) pre-verbal module. Using 939 responses for purebred and mixed-breed dogs, three factors were identified: initiation of reciprocal social behaviors (INIT), response to social interactions (RSPNS), and communication (COMM). There were small or no effects of sex, age, breed group or training. For six breeds with more than 35 responses (Border Collie, Rough Collie, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Standard Poodle), the behaviors eye contact with humans, enjoyment in interactions with human interaction, and name recognition demonstrated little variability across breeds, while asking for objects, giving/showing objects to humans, and attempts to direct humans' attention showed higher variability across these breeds. Breeds with genetically similar backgrounds had similar response distributions for owner reports of dog response to pointing. When considering these breeds according to the broad categories of "herders" and "retrievers," owners reported that the "herders" used more eye contact and vocalization, while the "retrievers" used more body contact. Information regarding social cognitive abilities in dogs provided by owner report suggest that there is variability across many social cognitive abilities in dogs and offers direction for further experimental investigations.

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