Skip to main content

Guide dogs as a model for investigating the effect of life experience and training on gazing behaviour

Abstract

The present study aimed at evaluating possible behavioural differences between guide dogs living in a kennel and interacting with a trainer and those living in a house and interacting with a blind person and their family, when they are faced with an unsolvable task. Fifty-two Labrador retrievers were tested: 13 Trained Guide dogs at the end of their training programme and 11 Working Guide dogs that had been living with their blind owner for at least 1 year. Two control groups of Labrador retrievers were also tested: 14 Young Untrained dogs of the same age as the Trained Guide and 14 Old Untrained dogs of the same age as the Working Guide dogs. Results showed that the Trained Guide dogs gazed towards the owner or the stranger for less time and with a higher latency and spent more time interacting with the experimental apparatus than the other three groups, which all behaved similarly. None of the groups tested showed preferences in gazing towards the stranger or the owner. Together, the results suggest that at the end of their training programme, guide dogs are less prone to engage in human-directed gazing behaviour and more likely to act independently when facing an unsolvable task. Conversely, guide dogs that have been living with a blind person (and their family) for 1 year behave like pet dogs. These findings indicate that guide dogs’ gazing towards humans is favoured by living in close proximity with people and by interacting with them.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Agnetta B, Hare B, Tomasello M (2000) Cues to food location that domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) of different ages do and do not use. Anim Cognit 3:107–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barrera G, Mustaca A, Bentosela M (2011) Communication between domestic dogs and humans: effects of shelter housing upon the gaze to the human. Anim Cognit 14:727–734

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bates LA, Byrne RW (2007) Creative or created: using anecdotes to investigate animal cognition. Methods 42(1):12–21

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentosela M, Barrera G, Jakovcevic A, Elgier AM, Mustaca AE (2008) Effect of reinforcement, reinforcer omission and extinction on a communicative response in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Behav Process 78:464–469

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bentosela M, Jakovcevic A, Elgier AM, Mustaca AE, Papini MR (2009) Incentive contrast in domestic dog (Canis familiaris). J Comp Neurol 123(2):125–130

    Google Scholar 

  • 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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D’Aniello B, Scandurra A, Prato-Previde E, Valsecchi P (2015) Gazing toward humans: a study on water rescue dogs using the impossible task paradigm. Behav Process 110:68–73

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fallani G, Prato-Previde E, Valsecchi P (2006) Do disrupted early attachments affect the relationship between guide dogs and blind owners? Appl Anim Behav Sci 100:241–257

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gácsi M, Győri B, Virányi Z, Kubinyi E, Range F, Belényi B, Miklósi Á (2009) Explaining dog wolf differences in utilizing human pointing gestures: selection for synergistic shifts in the development of some social skills. PLoS One 4:e6584

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaunet F (2008) How do guide dogs of blind owners and pet dogs of sighted owners (Canis familiaris) ask their owners for food? Anim Cognit 11:475–483

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hare B (2004) Domestic dog use humans as tools. In: Bekoff M (ed) Encyclopedia of animal behavior, vol 1. Greenwood Press, Westport, pp 277–285

    Google Scholar 

  • Hare B, Tomasello M (2005) Human-like social skills in dogs? Trends Cogn Sci 9:439–444

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hare B, Call J, Tomasello M (1998) Communication of food location between human and dog (Canis familiaris). Evol Comm 2:137–159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hare B, Brown M, Williamson C, Tomasello M (2002) The domestication of social cognition in dogs. Science 298:1634–1636

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horn L, Pongrácz P, Virányi Z, Huber L, Miklósi Á, Range F (2009) Human directed gazing behavior in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). J Vet Behav 4(2):98–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jakovcevic A, Elgier AM, Mustaca AE, Bentosela M (2010) Breed differences in dogs’ (Canis familiaris) gaze to the human face. Behav Process 84:602–607

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marshall-Pescini S, Passalacqua C, Barnard S, Valsecchi P, Prato-Previde E (2009) Agility and search and rescue training differently affects pet dogs’ behaviour in socio-cognitive task. Behav Process 78:449–454

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merola I, Marshall-Pescini S, D’Aniello B, Prato-Previde E (2013) Social referencing: water rescue trained dogs are less affected than pet dogs by the stranger’s message. Appl Anim Behav Sci 147:132–138

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á (2009) Evolutionary approach to communication between humans and dogs. Vet Res Commun 33:S53–S59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á, Soproni K (2006) A comparative analysis of the animals’ understanding of the human pointing gesture. Anim Cognit 9:81–93

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á, Polgárdi R, Topál J, Csányi V (1998) Use of experimenter-given cues in dogs. Anim Cognit 1:113–121

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á, Kubinyi E, Topál J, Gácsi M, Virányi Z, Csányi V (2003) A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do. Curr Biol 13:763–766

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á, Topál J, Csányi V (2004) Comparative social cognition: What can dogs teach us? Anim Behav 67:995–1004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miklósi Á, Pongrácz P, Lakatos G, Topál J, Csányi V (2005) A comparative study of the use of visual communicative signals in interactions between dogs (Canis familiaris) and humans and cats (Felis catus) and humans. J Comp Psychol 119:179–186

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naderi S, Miklósi Á, Dóka A, Csányi V (2001) Co-operative interactions between blind persons and their dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci 74:59–80

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Passalacqua C, Marshall-Pescini S, Barnard S, Lakatos G, Valsecchi P, Prato-Previde E (2011) Breed and age group differences in human-directed gazing behaviour. Anim Behav 82:1043–1050

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pongrácz-Rossi A, Ades C (2008) A dog at the keyboard: using arbitrary signs to communicate requests. Anim Cognit 11:329–338

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prato-Previde E, Marshall-Pescini S (2014) Social looking in the domestic dog. In: Horowitz A (ed) Domestic dog cognition and behavior. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 101–131

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Protopopova A, Gilmour AJ, Weiss RH, Shen JY, Wynne CDL (2012) The effects of social training and other factors on adoption success of shelter dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci 142:61–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reid PJ (2009) Adapting to the human world: dogs’ responsiveness to our social cues. Behav Process 80:325–333

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Soproni K, Miklósi Á, Topál J, Csányi V (2001) Comprehension of human communicative signs in pet dogs (Canis familiaris). J Comp Psychol 115:122–126

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tomasello M (2004) Aux origines de la cognition humaine. Retz, Paris, p 10. Translated from Tomasello M (1999) The cultural origins of human cognition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  • Topál J, Miklósi Á, Csányi V (1997) Dog-human relationship affects problem solving behaviour in the dogs. Anthrozoos 10:214–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Udell MAR, Dorey NR, Wynne CDL (2010a) What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs’ sensitivity to human actions. Biol Rev 85:327–345

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Udell MAR, Dorey NR, Wynne CDL (2010b) The performance of stray dogs (Canis familiaris) living in a shelter on human-guided object-choice task. Anim Behav 79:717–725

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valsecchi P, Prato-Previde E, Accorsi PA, Fallani G (2010) Development of the attachment bond in guide dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci 123:43–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yamamoto M, Ohtani N, Ohta M (2011) The response of dogs to attentional focus of human beings: a comparison between guide dog candidates and other dogs. J Vet Behav 6:4–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank all of the dog owners and the dog trainers at the National School of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Special thanks go to the blind owners, who participated in the test with great enthusiasm. We are also grateful to Corrado Migliorucci, a trainer at the School of Guide Dogs for perfect logistical support and great ideas for the organization of the test. This research was supported by ordinary funding from the University of Naples “Federico II”.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Biagio D’Aniello.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 44312 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Scandurra, A., Prato-Previde, E., Valsecchi, P. et al. Guide dogs as a model for investigating the effect of life experience and training on gazing behaviour. Anim Cogn 18, 937–944 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-015-0864-2

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-015-0864-2

Keywords

  • Dog–human communication
  • Cognitive test
  • Gazing
  • Guide dog
  • Training
  • Unsolvable task