Animal Cognition

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 273–285 | Cite as

Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) coordinate their actions in a problem-solving task

  • Juliane BräuerEmail author
  • Milena Bös
  • Josep Call
  • Michael Tomasello
Original Paper


Cooperative hunting is a cognitively challenging activity since individuals have to coordinate movements with a partner and at the same time react to the prey. Domestic dogs evolved from wolves, who engage in cooperative hunting regularly, but it is not clear whether dogs have kept their cooperative hunting skills. We presented pairs of dogs with a reward behind a fence with two openings in it. A sliding door operated by the experimenter could block one opening but not both simultaneously. The dogs needed to coordinate their actions, so that each was in front of a different opening, if one of them was to cross through and get food. All 24 dog pairs solved the problem. In study 1, we demonstrated that dogs understood how the apparatus worked. In study 2, we found that, although the performance of the pairs did not depend on the divisibility of the reward, pairs were quicker at coordinating their actions when both anticipated rewards. However, the dogs did not monitor one another, suggesting that their solutions were achieved by each individual attempting to maximize for itself.


Dogs Cooperation Coordination Social cognition 



We thank the dogs’ owners for agreeing to participate in this study. We also want to thank Katrin Schumann for her help with the data collection and Julia Steinbrück und Jacqueline Rose for data scoring for inter-observer reliability purposes. We thank Roger Mundry for statistical advice.

Conflict of interest

We declare that the experiments comply with the current laws of Germany. We also declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliane Bräuer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Milena Bös
    • 1
  • Josep Call
    • 1
  • Michael Tomasello
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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