Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 475–483 | Cite as

How do guide dogs of blind owners and pet dogs of sighted owners (Canis familiaris) ask their owners for food?

Original Paper


Although there are some indications that dogs (Canis familiaris) use the eyes of humans as a cue during human–dog interactions, the exact conditions under which this holds true are unclear. Analysing whether the interactive modalities of guide dogs and pet dogs differ when they interact with their blind, and sighted owners, respectively, is one way to tackle this problem; more specifically, it allows examining the effect of the visual status of the owner. The interactive behaviours of dogs were recorded when the dogs were prevented from accessing food that they had previously learned to access. A novel audible behaviour was observed: dogs licked their mouths sonorously. Data analyses showed that the guide dogs performed this behaviour longer and more frequently than the pet dogs; seven of the nine guide dogs and two of the nine pet dogs displayed this behaviour. However, gazing at the container where the food was and gazing at the owner (with or without sonorous mouth licking), gaze alternation between the container and the owner, vocalisation and contact with the owner did not differ between groups. Together, the results suggest that there is no overall distinction between guide and pet dogs in exploratory, learning and motivational behaviours and in their understanding of their owner’s attentional state, i.e. guide dogs do not understand that their owner cannot see (them). However, results show that guide dogs are subject to incidental learning and suggest that they supplemented their way to trigger their owners’ attention with a new distal cue.


Human–dog interaction Interactive behaviours Social cognition Guide dogs Socialisation 



This work was supported by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and conducted at the “Laboratoire Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie”, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. The experiments comply with the current laws in France for animal and human research. Author thanks the guide and pet dog-owner dyads for their interest and cooperation. Author is especially grateful to B. Sauzeau and S. Reis for their contribution in the design of the experiment and their help in determining behaviours to be collected, and to D. Sulinski for her contribution in the analysis of the videos. The author is also grateful to I. Guaitella for her comments on a previous version of the manuscript and to J. Philbeck for his feed-backs and corrections on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire “Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie” UMR 5145Muséum National d’Histoire NaturelleParis Cedex 05France

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