Skip to main content
Log in

Use of human-given cues by domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and horses (Equus caballus)

  • Original article
  • Published:
Animal Cognition Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Sixteen domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and four horses (Equus caballus) were tested for their ability to use human-given manual and facial cues in an object-choice task. Two of the four horses used touch as a cue and one horse successfully used pointing. The performance of the dogs was considerably better, with 12 subjects able to use pointing as a cue, 4 able to use head orientation and 2 able to use eye gaze alone. Group analysis showed that the dogs performed significantly better in all experimental conditions than during control trials. Dogs were able to use pointing cues even when the cuer’s body was closer to the incorrect object. Working gundogs with specialised training used pointing more successfully than pet dogs and gundog breeds performed better than non-gundog breeds. The results of this experiment suggest that animals’ use of human given communicative signals depends on cognitive ability, the evolutionary consequences of domestication and enculturation by humans within the individual’s lifetime.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Received: 15 July 1999 / Accepted after revision: 10 January 2000

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McKinley, J., Sambrook, T. Use of human-given cues by domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and horses (Equus caballus). Anim Cogn 3, 13–22 (2000).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: