Quantity-based judgments in the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)
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- Ward, C. & Smuts, B.B. Anim Cogn (2007) 10: 71. doi:10.1007/s10071-006-0042-7
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We examined the ability of domestic dogs to choose the larger versus smaller quantity of food in two experiments. In experiment 1, we investigated the ability of 29 dogs (results from 18 dogs were used in the data analysis) to discriminate between two quantities of food presented in eight different combinations. Choices were simultaneously presented and visually available at the time of choice. Overall, subjects chose the larger quantity more often than the smaller quantity, but they found numerically close comparisons more difficult. In experiment 2, we tested two dogs from experiment 1 under three conditions. In condition 1, we used similar methods from experiment 1 and tested the dogs multiple times on the eight combinations from experiment 1 plus one additional combination. In conditions 2 and 3, the food was visually unavailable to the subjects at the time of choice, but in condition 2, food choices were viewed simultaneously before being made visually unavailable, and in condition 3, they were viewed successively. In these last two conditions, and especially in condition 3, the dogs had to keep track of quantities mentally in order to choose optimally. Subjects still chose the larger quantity more often than the smaller quantity when the food was not simultaneously visible at the time of choice. Olfactory cues and inadvertent cuing by the experimenter were excluded as mechanisms for choosing larger quantities. The results suggest that, like apes tested on similar tasks, some dogs can form internal representations and make mental comparisons of quantity.