All current evidence of visual perspective taking in dogs can possibly be explained by dogs reacting to certain stimuli rather than understanding what others see. In the current study, we set up a situation in which contextual information and social cues are in conflict. A human always forbade the dog from taking a piece of food. The part of the room being illuminated was then varied, for example, either the area where the human was seated or the area where the food was located was lit. Results show that dogs steal significantly more food when it is dark compared to when it is light. While stealing forbidden food the dog’s behaviour also depends on the type of illumination in the room. Illumination around the food, but not the human, affected the dogs’ behaviour. This indicates that dogs do not take the sight of the human as a signal to avoid the food. It also cannot be explained by a low-level associative rule of avoiding illuminated food which dogs actually approach faster when they are in private. The current finding therefore raises the possibility that dogs take into account the human’s visual access to the food while making their decision to steal it.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bräuer J, Call J, Tomasello M (2004) Visual perspective taking in dogs (Canis familiaris) in the presence of barriers. Appl Anim Behav Sci 88:299–317
Bräuer J, Call J, Tomasello M (2007) Chimpanzees really know what others can see in a competitive situation. Anim Cogn 10:439–448
Call J, Tomasello M (2008) Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? 30 years later. Trends Cogn Sci 12:187–192
Call J, Bräuer J, Kaminski J, Tomasello M (2003) Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are sensitive to the attentional state of humans. J Comp Psychol 117:257–263
Cooper JJ, Ashton C, Bishop S, West R, Mills DS, Young RJ (2003) Clever hounds: social cognition in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Appl Anim Behav Sci 81:229–244
Dally JM, Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2004) Cache protection strategies by western Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma californica): hiding food in the shade. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 271:S387–S390
Dally JM, Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2005) Cache protection strategies by western Scrub-Jays, Aphelocoma californica: implications for social cognition. Anim Behav 70:1251–1263
Dally JM, Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2006) Food-caching western Scrub-Jays keep track of who was watching when. Science 310:1662–1665
Emery NJ, Clayton NS (2001) Effects of experience and social context on prospective caching strategies by Scrub Jays. Nature 414:443–446
Gácsi M, Miklósi A, Varga O, Topál J, Csányi V (2004) Are readers of our face readers of our minds? Dogs (Canis familiaris) show situation-dependent recognition of human’s attention. Anim Cogn 7:144–153
Hare B, Call J, Agnetta B, Tomasello M (2000) Chimpanzees know what conspecifics do and do not see. Anim Behav 59:771–785
Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (2001) Do chimpanzees know what conspecifics know? Anim Behav 61:139–151
Kaminski J, Call J, Tomasello M (2004) Body orientation and face orientation: two factors controlling apes’ begging behavior from humans. Anim Cogn 7:216–223
Kaminski J, Call J, Tomasello M (2008) Chimpanzees know what others know, but not what they believe. Cognition 109:224–234
Kaminski J, Bräuer J, Call J, Tomasello M (2009) Domestic dogs are sensitive to a human’s perspective. Behaviour 146:979–998
Liebal K, Pika S, Call J, Tomasello M (2004) To move or not to move: how great apes adjust to the attentional state of others? Interact Stud 5:199–219
Lorenz RJ (1996) Grundbegriffe der Biometrie. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart
Melis AP, Call J, Tomasello M (2006) Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) conceal visual and auditory information from others. J Comp Psychol 120:154–162
Miller PE, Murphey CJ (1995) Vision in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 207:1623–1634
Schwab C, Huber L (2006) Obey or not obey? Dogs (Canis familiaris) behave differently in response to attentional states of their owners. J Comp Psychol 120:169–175
Udell MAR, Dorey NR, Wynne CDL (2011) Can your dog read your mind? Understanding the causes of canine perspective taking. Learn Behav 39:289–302
Virányi Z, Topál J, Gácsi M, Miklosi A, Csányi V (2004) Dogs respond appropriately to cues of humans’ attentional focus. Behav Process 66:161–172
We thank the dog owners for their support. Without their help our work would not be possible. We also thank Martina Neumann and Katja Schönefeld for help with data collection and reliability coding. We thank Roger Mundry for statistical support. Juliane Kaminski was funded by a grant of the Volkswagenstiftung.
About this article
Cite this article
Kaminski, J., Pitsch, A. & Tomasello, M. Dogs steal in the dark. Anim Cogn 16, 385–394 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-012-0579-6
- Domestic dog
- Social cognition
- Perspective taking