Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 107-118

First online:

Attention to attention in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) dyadic play

  • Alexandra HorowitzAffiliated withUniversity of CaliforniaDepartment of Psychology, Barnard College Email author 

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The social cognitive capacities of dogs, including their communication skills and use of visual attention cues, have recently been investigated in numerous experimental studies. This paper reports on research of domestic dog behavior in a natural setting, which shows sensitivity to the visual attention of their partners when engaged in dyadic rough-and-tumble play. The sequential behaviors and head-direction of both dogs were noted throughout the bouts. The behaviors were differentially used according to the partner’s posture. Play signals were sent nearly exclusively to forward-facing conspecifics; attention-getting behaviors were used most often when a playmate was facing away, and before signaling an interest to play. In addition, the mode of attention-getter matched the degree of inattentiveness of the playmate: stronger attention-getters were used when a playmate was looking away or distracted, less forceful ones when the partner was facing forward or laterally. In other words, these dogs showed attention to, and acted to manipulate, a feature of other dogs that mediates their ability to respond: which feature in human interaction is called “attention”.


Visual attention cues Dogs Social cognition Play