Animal Cognition

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 689–701 | Cite as

Dog rivalry impacts following behavior in a decision-making task involving food

  • Christy L. HoffmanEmail author
  • Malini Suchak
Original Paper


Dogs learn a great deal from humans and other dogs. Previous studies of socially influenced learning between dogs have typically used a highly trained demonstrator dog who is unfamiliar to the observer. Because of this, it is unknown how dynamics between familiar dogs may influence their likelihood of learning from each other. In this study, we tested dogs living together in two-dog households on whether individual dogs’ rivalry scores were associated with performance on a local enhancement task. Specifically, we wanted to know whether dog rivalry impacted whether an observer dog would approach a plate from which a demonstrator dog had eaten all available food, or whether the observer dog would approach the adjacent plate that still contained food. Dog rivalry scores were calculated using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire and indicated each dog’s tendency to engage aggressively with the other household dog. Low-rivalry dogs were more likely to approach the empty plate than high-rivalry dogs when the observer dog was allowed to approach the plates immediately after the demonstrator had moved out of sight. This difference between low- and high-rivalry dogs disappeared, however, when observer dogs had to wait 5 s before approaching the plates. The same pattern was observed during a control condition when a human removed the food from a plate. Compared to low-rivalry dogs, high-rivalry dogs may pay less attention to other dogs due to a low tolerance for having other dogs in close proximity.


Multi-dog Dog rivalry Local enhancement Social learning 



We would like to thank our participants and their families for generously allowing us to visit their homes and Julie Hecht for helpful discussions regarding in-home data collection procedures. Thanks to Courtney Baird, Robert Frantz, Olivia Morello, Cameron Surratt, and Enya Van Poucke for assistance with data collection and video coding. We also extend our thanks to the following research assistants who were funded by the Canisius Earning Excellence Program: Colleen Bates, Stephanie Handley, Natalie Roberts, Erin Smith, Kaylee Stutz, and London Wolff.

Supplementary material

10071_2017_1091_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 16 kb)


  1. Bradshaw JW, Blackwell EJ, Casey RA (2009) Dominance in domestic dogs—useful construct or bad habit? J Vet Behav Clin Appl Res 4:135–144. doi: 10.1016/j.veb.2008.08.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bradshaw JW, Blackwell EJ, Casey RA (2016) Dominance in domestic dogs—A response to Schilder et al. (2014). J Vet Behav Clin Appl Res 11:102–108. doi: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.11.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown C, Laland KN (2003) Social learning in fishes: a review. Fish Fish 4:280–288. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-2979.2003.00122.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Coussi-Korbel S, Fragaszy DM (1995) On the relation between social dynamics and social learning. Anim Behav 50:1441–1453. doi: 10.1016/0003-3472(95)80001-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Galef BG, Laland KN (2005) Social learning in animals: empirical studies and theoretical models. Bioscience 55:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Heberlein M, Turner DC (2009) Dogs, Canis familiaris, find hidden food by observing and interacting with a conspecific. Anim Behav 78:385–391. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.05.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Horner V, Proctor D, Bonnie KE et al (2010) Prestige affects cultural learning in chimpanzees. PLoS ONE 5:e10625. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010625 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Hsu Y, Serpell JA (2003) Development and validation of a questionnaire for measuring behavior and temperament traits in pet dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 223:1293–1300. doi: 10.2460/javma.2003.223.1293 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Kubinyi E, Miklósi Á, Topál J, Csányi V (2003a) Social mimetic behaviour and social anticipation in dogs: preliminary results. Anim Cogn 6:57–63. doi: 10.1007/s10071-003-0163-1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Kubinyi E, Topál J, Miklósi A, Csányi V (2003b) Dogs (Canis familiaris) learn their owners via observation in a manipulation task. J Comp Psychol 117:156. doi: 10.1037/0835-7036.117.2.156 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Kubinyi E, Pongrácz P, Miklósi Á (2009) Dog as a model for studying conspecific and heterospecific social learning. J Vet Behav Clin Appl Res 4:31–41. doi: 10.1016/j.veb.2008.08.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kummer H (1968) Social organization of hamadryas baboons. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  13. Lonsdorf EV, Bonnie KE (2010) Opportunities and constraints when studying social learning: developmental approaches and social factors. Learn Behav 38:195–205CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Marchetti C, Drent PJ (2000) Individual differences in the use of social information in foraging by captive great tits. Anim Behav 60:131–140. doi: 10.1006/anbe.2000.1443 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. McMillan FD, Vanderstichel R, Stryhn H et al (2016) Behavioural characteristics of dogs removed from hoarding situations. Appl Anim Behav Sci 178:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Miklósi Á, Soproni K (2006) A comparative analysis of animals’ understanding of the human pointing gesture. Anim Cogn 9:81–93. doi: 10.1007/s10071-005-0008-1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller HC, Rayburn-Reeves R, Zentall TR (2009) Imitation and emulation by dogs using a bidirectional control procedure. Behav Process 80:109–114. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.09.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Nicol CJ, Pope SJ (1999) The effects of demonstrator social status and prior foraging success on social learning in laying hens. Anim Behav 57:163–171. doi: 10.1006/anbe.1998.0920 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Pongrácz P, Miklósi Á, Kubinyi E et al (2001) Social learning in dogs: the effect of a human demonstrator on the performance of dogs in a detour task. Anim Behav 62:1109–1117. doi: 10.1006/anbe.2001.1966 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pongrácz P, Miklósi Á, Kubinyi E et al (2003) Interaction between individual experience and social learning in dogs. Anim Behav 65:595–603. doi: 10.1006/anbe.2003.2079 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pongrácz P, Miklósi Á, Timár-Geng K, Csányi V (2004) Verbal attention getting as a key factor in social learning between dog (Canis familiaris) and human. J Comp Psychol 118:375. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.118.4.375 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Pongrácz P, Vida V, Bánhegyi P, Miklósi Á (2008) How does dominance rank status affect individual and social learning performance in the dog (Canis familiaris)? Anim Cogn 11:75–82. doi: 10.1007/s10071-007-0090-7 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Pongrácz P, Bánhegyi P, Miklósi Á (2012) When rank counts—dominant dogs learn better from a human demonstrator in a two-action test. Behaviour 149:111–132. doi: 10.1163/156853912X629148 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Prato-Previde E, Marshall-Pescini S, Valsecchi P (2008) Is your choice my choice? The owners’ effect on pet dogs’(Canis lupus familiaris) performance in a food choice task. Anim Cogn 11:167–174CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Range F, Viranyi Z, Huber L (2007) Selective imitation in domestic dogs. Curr Biol 17:868–872. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.04.026 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Range F, Huber L, Heyes C (2011) Automatic imitation in dogs. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 278:211–217. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1142 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rayment DJ, Peters RA, Marston LC, De Groef B (2016) Investigating canine personality structure using owner questionnaires measuring pet dog behaviour and personality. Appl Anim Behav Sci 180:100–106. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2016.04.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schwab C, Bugnyar T, Schloegl C, Kotrschal K (2008) Enhanced social learning between siblings in common ravens, Corvus corax. Anim Behav 75:501–508. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.06.006 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Serpell JA, Duffy DL (2014) Dog breeds and their behavior. In: Horowitz A (ed) Domestic dog cognition and behavior. Springer, Berlin pp 31–57Google Scholar
  30. Tennie C, Glabsch E, Tempelmann S et al (2009) Dogs, Canis familiaris, fail to copy intransitive actions in third-party contextual imitation tasks. Anim Behav 77:1491–1499. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.200903.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. van de Waal E, Renevey N, Favre CM, Bshary R (2010) Selective attention to philopatric models causes directed social learning in wild vervet monkeys. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci rspb20092260. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.2260

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology, and ConservationCanisius CollegeBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations