Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 727–734 | Cite as

Communication between domestic dogs and humans: effects of shelter housing upon the gaze to the human

  • Gabriela Barrera
  • Alba Mustaca
  • Mariana Bentosela
Original Paper


It is widely known that gaze plays an essential role in communicative interactions. Domestic dogs tend to look at the human face in situations of conflict and uncertainty. This study compares the gaze of shelter and pet dogs during acquisition and extinction phases in a situation involving a reward in sight but out of reach. Even though no significant differences between the groups were recorded during acquisition, gaze duration decreased in both groups during extinction, with shelter dogs showing a significant shorter duration. This could be related to their different living conditions and to the fact that through their ordinary everyday interactions, pet dogs have more opportunities to learn to persist in their communicative responses when they do not get what they want. These results highlight the relevance of learning experiences during ontogeny, which would therefore modulate communicative responses.


Domestic dogs Shelter dogs Gaze direction Learning 



This research was supported by CONICET and AGENCIA (PICT 2005, number 38020). We would like to express our gratitude to Nydia Schmidt and to all the staff of the “Esperanza” Animal Shelter in Crespo, Entre Ríos, Argentina. We greatly appreciate the help of all dog owners who participated in the study and Yamila Giamal for her collaboration. Furthermore, we would like to thank Adriana Jakovcevic, Angel Elgier, and four anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a preliminary version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriela Barrera
    • 1
  • Alba Mustaca
    • 1
  • Mariana Bentosela
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Experimental and Applied Psychology (PSEA)Medical Research Institute (IDIM; CONICET-UBA)Buenos AiresArgentina

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