Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 259–266 | Cite as

Domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) choices in reference to information provided by human and artificial hands

  • Shannon M. A. KundeyEmail author
  • Justin Delise
  • Andres De Los Reyes
  • Kathy Ford
  • Blair Starnes
  • Weston Dennen
Original Paper


Even young humans show sensitivity to the accuracy and reliability of informants’ reports. Children are selective in soliciting information and in accepting claims. Recent research has also investigated domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) sensitivity to agreement among human informants. Such research utilizing a common human pointing gesture to which dogs are sensitive in a food retrieval paradigm suggests that dogs might choose among informants according to the number of points exhibited, rather than the number of individuals indicating a particular location. Here, we further investigated dogs’ use of information from human informants using a stationary pointing gesture, as well as the conditions under which dogs would utilize a stationary point. First, we explored whether the number of points or the number of individuals more strongly influenced dogs’ choices. To this end, dogs encountered a choice situation in which the number of points exhibited toward a particular location and the number of individuals exhibiting those points conflicted. Results indicated that dogs chose in accordance with the number of points exhibited toward a particular location. In a second experiment, we explored the possibility that previously learned associations drove dogs’ responses to the stationary pointing gesture. In this experiment, dogs encountered a choice situation in which artificial hands exhibited a stationary pointing gesture toward or away from choice locations in the absence of humans. Dogs chose the location to which the artificial hand pointed. These results are consistent with the notion that dogs may respond to a human pointing gesture due to their past-learning history.


Canine cognition Dog Informant Pointing 



We would like to thank Rebecca German, Sabrina Molina, and Meghan Tomlin for their assistance in data collection, coding, and participant recruitment.


  1. Agnetta B, Hare B, Tomasello M (2000) Cues to food locations that domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) of different ages do and do not use. Anim Cogn 3:107–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asch SE (1956) Studies of independence and conformity: 1. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychol Monogr 70:1–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bates E, Benigni L, Bretherton I, Camaioni L, Volterra V (1979) The emergence of symbols: cognition and communication in infancy. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Birch SAJ, Vauthier SA, Bloom P (2008) Three and 4-year-olds spontaneously use others’ past performance to guide their learning. Cognition 107:1018–1034PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Butterworth G (1995) Origins of mind in perception and action. In: Moore C, Dunham PJ (eds) Joint attention: its origins and role in development. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 29–40Google Scholar
  6. Carlson SM, Moses LJ, Hix HR (1998) The role of inhibitory processes in young children’s difficulties with deception and false belief. Child Dev 69:672–691PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Corriveau KH, Harris PL (2010) Preschoolers (sometimes) defer to the majority in making simple perceptual judgments. Dev Psychol 46:437–445PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corriveau KH, Fusaro M, Harris PL (2009) Going with the flow: preschoolers prefer nondissenters as informants. Psychol Sci 20:372–377PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Couillard N, Woodward A (1999) Children’s comprehension of deceptive points. Br J Dev Psychol 17:515–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Los Reyes A, Thomas SA, Goodman KL, Kundey SMA (2013) Principles underlying the use of multiple informants’ reports. Annu Rev Clin Psychol 9:123–149PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dorey NR, Udell MR, Wynne CL (2009) Breed differences in dogs’ sensitivity to human points: a meta-analysis. Behav Process 81:409–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fiset S, Beaulieu C, Landry F (2003) Duration of dogs’ (Canis familiaris) working memory in search for disappearing objects. Anim Cogn 6:1–10PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Franco F, Butterworth G (1996) Pointing and social awareness: declaring and requesting in the second year. J Child Lang 23:307–336PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fusaro M, Harris PL (2008) Children assess informant reliability using bystanders’ non-verbal cues. Dev Sci 11:781–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (1998) Communication of food location between human and dog (Canis familiaris). Evol Commun 2:137–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (1999) Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) use human and conspecific social cues to locate hidden food. J Comp Psychol 113:246–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harris PL, Pasquini ES, Duke S, Asscher JJ, Pons F (2006) Germs and angles: the role of testimony in young children’s ontology. Dev Sci 17:757–758Google Scholar
  18. Haun DM, Tomasello M (2011) Conformity to peer pressure in preschool children. Child Dev 82:1759–1767PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kundey SMA, De Los Reyes A, Arbuthnot J, Allen R, Coshun A, Molina S, Royer E (2010) Domesticated dogs’ (Canis familiaris) response to dishonest human points. Int J Comp Psychol 23:201–215Google Scholar
  20. Kundey SMA, German R, De Los Reyes A, Monnier B, Swift P, Delise J, Tomlin M (2012) Domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) choices in reference to agreement among human informants on location of food. Anim Cogn 15:991–997PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lakatos G, Soproni K, Dóka A, Miklósi Á (2009) A comparative approach to dogs’ (Canis familiaris) and human infants’ understanding of various forms of pointing gestures. Anim Cogn 12:621–631PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marshall-Pescini S, Prato-Previde E, Valsecchi P (2011) Are dogs (Canis familiaris) misled more by their owners than by strangers in a food choice task? Anim Cogn 14:137–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McKinley J, Sambrook TD (2000) Use of human-given cues by domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and horses (Equus caballus). Anim Cogn 3:13–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McMahon S, Macpherson K, Roberts W (2010) Dogs choose a human informant: metacognition in canines. Behav Proc 85:293–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miklósi Á, Polgárdi R, Topál J, Csányi V (1998) Use of experimenter-given cues in dogs. Anim Cogn 1:113–121PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Osthaus B, Lea SEG, Slater AM (2005) Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) fail to show understanding of means end connections in a string pulling task. Anim Cogn 8:37–47PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Petter M, Musolino E, Roberts WA, Cole M (2009) Can dogs (Canis familiaris) detect human deception? Behav Process 82:109–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Riedel J, Buttelmann D, Call J (2006) Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) use a physical marker to locate hidden food. Anim Cogn 9:27–35PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Russell J, Mauthner N, Sharpe S, Tidswell T (1991) The ‘windows task’ as a measure of strategic deception in preschoolers and autistic subjects. Br J Dev Psychol 9:331–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schaffer HR (1984) The child’s entry into a social world. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Sherif M (1936) The psychology of social norms. Harper, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Soproni K, Miklósi Á, Topál J, Csányi V (2001) Comprehension of human communicative signs in pet dogs. J Comp Psychol 115:122–126PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Soproni K, Miklósi Á, Topál J, Csányi V (2002) Dogs’ (Canis familiaris) responsiveness to human pointing gestures. J Comp Psychol 116:27–34PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Topál J, Byrne R, Miklósi A, Csányi V (2006) Reproducing human actions and action sequences: “Do as I do!” in a dog. Anim Cogn 9:355–367PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Udell MAR, Giglio RF, Wynne CDL (2008) Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) use human gestures but not nonhuman tokens to find hidden food. J Comp Psychol 122:84–93PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon M. A. Kundey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Justin Delise
    • 1
  • Andres De Los Reyes
    • 2
  • Kathy Ford
    • 1
  • Blair Starnes
    • 1
  • Weston Dennen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHood CollegeFrederickUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Maryland at College ParkCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations