Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 257–265 | Cite as

The response of guide dogs and pet dogs (Canis Familiaris) to cues of human referential communication (pointing and gaze)

Original Paper


The study raises the question of whether guide dogs and pet dogs are expected to differ in response to cues of referential communication given by their owners; especially since guide dogs grow up among sighted humans, and while living with their blind owners, they still have interactions with several sighted people. Guide dogs and pet dogs were required to respond to point, point and gaze, gaze and control cues of referential communication given by their owners. Results indicate that the two groups of dogs do not differ from each other, revealing that the visual status of the owner is not a factor in the use of cues of referential communication. Both groups of dogs have higher frequencies of performance and faster latencies for the point and the point and gaze cues as compared to gaze cue only. However, responses to control cues are below chance performance for the guide dogs, whereas the pet dogs perform at chance. The below chance performance of the guide dogs may be explained by a tendency among them to go and stand by the owner. The study indicates that both groups of dogs respond similarly in normal daily dyadic interaction with their owners and the lower comprehension of the human gaze may be a less salient cue among dogs in comparison to the pointing gesture.


Referential communication Cues Dog-owner dyads Guide dogs Apprenticeship 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyChrist UniversityBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Laboratoire Eco-Anthropologie et EthnobiologieMuséum National Histoire NaturelleParisFrance

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