Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 937–944 | Cite as

Guide dogs as a model for investigating the effect of life experience and training on gazing behaviour

  • Anna Scandurra
  • Emanuela Prato-Previde
  • Paola Valsecchi
  • Massimo Aria
  • Biagio D’Aniello
Original Paper

Abstract

The present study aimed at evaluating possible behavioural differences between guide dogs living in a kennel and interacting with a trainer and those living in a house and interacting with a blind person and their family, when they are faced with an unsolvable task. Fifty-two Labrador retrievers were tested: 13 Trained Guide dogs at the end of their training programme and 11 Working Guide dogs that had been living with their blind owner for at least 1 year. Two control groups of Labrador retrievers were also tested: 14 Young Untrained dogs of the same age as the Trained Guide and 14 Old Untrained dogs of the same age as the Working Guide dogs. Results showed that the Trained Guide dogs gazed towards the owner or the stranger for less time and with a higher latency and spent more time interacting with the experimental apparatus than the other three groups, which all behaved similarly. None of the groups tested showed preferences in gazing towards the stranger or the owner. Together, the results suggest that at the end of their training programme, guide dogs are less prone to engage in human-directed gazing behaviour and more likely to act independently when facing an unsolvable task. Conversely, guide dogs that have been living with a blind person (and their family) for 1 year behave like pet dogs. These findings indicate that guide dogs’ gazing towards humans is favoured by living in close proximity with people and by interacting with them.

Keywords

Dog–human communication Cognitive test Gazing Guide dog Training Unsolvable task 

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 44312 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Scandurra
    • 1
  • Emanuela Prato-Previde
    • 2
  • Paola Valsecchi
    • 3
  • Massimo Aria
    • 4
  • Biagio D’Aniello
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and TechnologiesSecond University of NaplesCasertaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation (DEPT)University of MilanSegrateItaly
  3. 3.Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Economics and StatisticsUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly

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