Advertisement

Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 1231–1235 | Cite as

The importance of gestural communication: a study of human–dog communication using incongruent information

  • Biagio D’AnielloEmail author
  • Anna Scandurra
  • Alessandra Alterisio
  • Paola Valsecchi
  • Emanuela Prato-Previde
Short Communication

Abstract

We assessed how water rescue dogs, which were equally accustomed to respond to gestural and verbal requests, weighted gestural versus verbal information when asked by their owner to perform an action. Dogs were asked to perform four different actions (“sit”, “lie down”, “stay”, “come”) providing them with a single source of information (in Phase 1, gestural, and in Phase 2, verbal) or with incongruent information (in Phase 3, gestural and verbal commands referred to two different actions). In Phases 1 and 2, we recorded the frequency of correct responses as 0 or 1, whereas in Phase 3, we computed a ‘preference index’ (percentage of gestural commands followed over the total commands responded). Results showed that dogs followed gestures significantly better than words when these two types of information were used separately. Females were more likely to respond to gestural than verbal commands and males responded to verbal commands significantly better than females. In the incongruent condition, when gestures and words simultaneously indicated two different actions, the dogs overall preferred to execute the action required by the gesture rather than that required verbally, except when the verbal command “come” was paired with the gestural command “stay” with the owner moving away from the dog. Our data suggest that in dogs accustomed to respond to both gestural and verbal requests, gestures are more salient than words. However, dogs’ responses appeared to be dependent also on the contextual situation: dogs’ motivation to maintain proximity with an owner who was moving away could have led them to make the more ‘convenient’ choices between the two incongruent instructions.

Keywords

Human–dog communication Incongruent information Gestural cue Verbal cue Water rescue dog 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Roberto Gasbarri, president of the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs for enthusiastically allowing the test with its water rescue dyads and all the handlers that have become available for testing. Special thanks also to Dr. Marina Pompameo, director of veterinary ASL, Dr. Giuseppe Gargiulo, director of ASL, and Prof. Alessandro Fioretti, president of the Ethics Committee of the University of Naples.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that this manuscript complies with Italian ethical standards and there is no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Åkerberg H, Wilsson E, Sallander M, Hedhammar Å, Lagerstedt AS, Larhmmar D, Meyerson B (2012) Test for personality characteristics in dogs used in research. J Vet Behav 7:327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaver BV (1999) Canine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians. W.B. Saunders Co., PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  3. Bensky MK, Gosling SD, Sinn DL (2013) The world from a dog’s point of view: a review and synthesis of dog cognition research. Adv Study Anim Behav 45:209–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. D’Aniello B, Scandurra A, Prato-Previde E, Valsecchi P (2015) Gazing toward humans: A study on water rescue dogs using the impossible task paradigm. Behav Process 110:68–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fukuzawa M, Mills DS, Cooper JJ (2005) More than just a word: non-semantic command variables affect obedience in the domestic dos (Canis familiaris). Appl Anim Behav Sci 91:129–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gibson JM, Scavelli SA, Udell CH, Udell MAR (2014) Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are sensitive to the “human” qualities of vocal commands. ABC 1(3):281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Grassmann S, Kaminski J, Tomasello M (2012) How two word-trained dogs integrate pointing and naming. Anim Cogn 15:657–665CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Kaminski J (2008) Dogs (Canis familiaris) are adapted to receive human communication. In: Berthoz A, Christen Y (eds) Neurobiology of “Umwelt”: how living beings perceive the world, research and perspectives in neurosciences. Springer, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  9. Kaminski J, Nitzschner M (2013) Do dogs get the point? A review of dog-human communication ability. Learn Motiv 44:294–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kaminski J, Call J, Fischer J (2004) Word learning in a domestic dog: Evidence for “Fast Mapping”. Science 304:1682–1683CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Miklósi Á (2009) Evolutionary approach to communication between humans and dogs. Vet Res Commun 33(Suppl 1):S53–S59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mills DS (2005) What’s in a word? A review of the attributes of a command affecting the performance of pet dogs. Anthrozoös 18:208–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Müller CA, Mayer C, Dörrenberg S, Huber L, Range F (2011) Female but not male dogs respond to a size constancy violation. Biol Lett 7:689–691CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Pilley JW, Reid AK (2011) Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents. Behav Process 86:184–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Scheider L, Grassmann S, Kaminski J, Tomasello M (2011) Domestic dogs use contextual information and tone of voice when following a human pointing gesture. PLoS ONE 6(7):e21676CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Topál J, Gergely G, Erdöhegyi A, Csibra G, Miklósi Á (2009) Differential sensitivity to human communication in dogs, wolves, and human infants. Science 325:1269–1271CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Virányi Z, Topál J, Gácsi M, Miklósi Á, Csányi V (2004) Dogs respond appropriately to cues of humans’ attentional focus. Behav Process 66:161–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wobber V, Kaminski J (2011) What do dogs understand about human communicative signals? A novel synthesis. In: deGiovine V (ed) Dogs: biology, behavior, and health disorders. Nova Press, New York, pp 93–110Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Biagio D’Aniello
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna Scandurra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alessandra Alterisio
    • 1
  • Paola Valsecchi
    • 3
  • Emanuela Prato-Previde
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food ScienceUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  3. 3.Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation (DEPT)University of MilanMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations