Attention to attention in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) dyadic play

Abstract

The social cognitive capacities of dogs, including their communication skills and use of visual attention cues, have recently been investigated in numerous experimental studies. This paper reports on research of domestic dog behavior in a natural setting, which shows sensitivity to the visual attention of their partners when engaged in dyadic rough-and-tumble play. The sequential behaviors and head-direction of both dogs were noted throughout the bouts. The behaviors were differentially used according to the partner’s posture. Play signals were sent nearly exclusively to forward-facing conspecifics; attention-getting behaviors were used most often when a playmate was facing away, and before signaling an interest to play. In addition, the mode of attention-getter matched the degree of inattentiveness of the playmate: stronger attention-getters were used when a playmate was looking away or distracted, less forceful ones when the partner was facing forward or laterally. In other words, these dogs showed attention to, and acted to manipulate, a feature of other dogs that mediates their ability to respond: which feature in human interaction is called “attention”.

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Notes

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    The figure 371 derives from subtracting the number of repeated instances (26) from the total number of play signals (397).

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Acknowledgments

This article is based on research done in completion of a doctoral dissertation at the University of California, San Diego. I would particularly like to thank Shirley Strum, Jeff Elman, and Aaron Cicourel for their assistance in the development of the theoretical analytic method and for constructive criticisms. Thank you to the dog owners at Orpheus Park for their cooperation in this study and for their endurance of my videotaping of their recreational hours. I also thank the dogs for allowing me to keep such close company. Many thanks to Damon Horowitz and Ammon Shea for comments on the manuscript, and to three anonymous reviewers for their feedback and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Alexandra Horowitz.

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Horowitz, A. Attention to attention in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) dyadic play. Anim Cogn 12, 107–118 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-008-0175-y

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Keywords

  • Visual attention cues
  • Dogs
  • Social cognition
  • Play