Learning & Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 314-317

First online:

Theory of mind in dogs? Examining method and concept

  • Alexandra HorowitzAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Barnard College Email author 


In line with other research, Udell, Dorey, and Wynne’s (in press) finding that dogs and wolves pass on some trials of a putative theory-of-mind test and fail on others is as informative about the methods and concepts of the research as about the subjects. This commentary expands on these points. The intertrial differences in the target article demonstrate how critical the choice of cues is in experimental design; the intersubject-group differences demonstrate how life histories can interact with experimental design. Even the best-designed theory-of-mind tests have intractable logical problems. Finally, these and previous research results call for the introduction of an intermediate stage of ability, a rudimentary theory of mind, to describe subjects’ performance.


Comparative cognition Theory of mind Domestic dog Attention Cognitive ethology Social learning