Do domestic dogs show any evidence of being able to count?

Abstract.

Numerical competence has been demonstrated in a wide range of animal species. The level of numerical abilities shown ranges from simple relative numerousness judgements to true counting. In this study we used the preferential looking technique to test whether 11 pet dogs could count. The dogs were presented with three simple calculations: "1+1=2"; "1+1=1"; and "1+1=3". These calculations were performed by presenting the dogs with treats that were placed behind a screen that allowed manipulation of the outcome of the calculation. When the dogs expected the outcome they spent the same amount of time looking at the result of the calculation as they did on the initial presentation. However, when the result was unexpected dogs spent significantly longer looking at the outcome of the calculation. The results suggest that the dogs were anticipating the outcome of the calculations they observed, thus suggesting that dogs may have a rudimentary ability to count.

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West, R.E., Young, R.J. Do domestic dogs show any evidence of being able to count?. Anim Cogn 5, 183–186 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-002-0140-0

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  • Counting Domestic dogs Numerical competence Preferential looking time