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


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Christy L. Hoffman.

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Hoffman, C.L., Suchak, M. Dog rivalry impacts following behavior in a decision-making task involving food. Anim Cogn 20, 689–701 (2017).

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