A Dog’s-Eye View of Canine Cognition

  • Monique A. R. Udell
  • Kathryn Lord
  • Erica N. Feuerbacher
  • Clive D. L. Wynne


In this chapter we attempt to put the dog back at the heart of dog cognition studies. We identify that the majority of dogs are not first-world pets, dependent on their owners for the fulfillment of all essential needs, and acting as their “best friends.” Rather most dogs are scavengers on the periphery of people’s lives. These dogs are more likely to avoid human contact than seek it. The sensitivity of pet dogs to human actions and intentions that has been a major focus of recent research is unlikely to be a special adaptation or case of co-evolution, but rather is the expression of basic processes of conditioning as well as social and biological traits that domesticated and wild canids share. In individuals that have been socialized to humans and rendered completely dependent on them these processes lead to high levels of sensitivity to human actions. The fundamental differences between dog and wolf behavior lie at more basic levels: in the processes of socialization, in foraging, and in reproduction. Small but crucial intertwined changes led to an animal that is (1) more promiscuous than any other canid, (2) can reproduce more rapidly, and (3) is a much less effective hunter but (4) more efficient scavenger than other canids. The indirect consequences of these changes include the fact that we have dogs and not wolves resting at our feet. Though it may be a little less flattering to the human species, we believe this perspective on dogs is at least as fascinating and closer to the historical truth than the story that humans created dogs.


Critical Period Conditioned Reinforcer Gesture Type Wild Canid Fence Barrier 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. APPMA. (2008). Industry statistics and trends. American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Retrieved from
  2. Barrera, G., Jakovcevic, G., Elgier, A. M., Mustaca, A., et al. (2010). Responses of shelter and pet dogs to an unknown human. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 5, 339–344.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, A. M. (1973). The Ecology of Stray Dogs: A Study of Free-ranging Urban Animals. Lafayette: Purdue University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bensky, M. K., Gosling, S. D., & Sinn, D. L. (2013). The world from a dog’s view: A comprehensive review of dog cognition research. In H. J. Brockmann (Ed.), Advances in the study of behavior, Vol 45, Amsterdam: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bentosela, M., Barrera, G., Jakovcevic, A., Elgier, A. M., & Mustaca, A. E. (2008). Effect of reinforcement, reinforcer omission and extinction on a communicative response in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 78, 464–469.Google Scholar
  6. Berman, M., & Dunbar, I. (1983). The social behaviour of free-ranging suburban dogs. Applied Animal Ethology, 10, 5–17.Google Scholar
  7. Boitani, L., & Ciucci, P. (1995). Comparative social ecology of feral dogs and wolves. Ethology Ecology and Evolution, 7, 49–72.Google Scholar
  8. Boitani, L., Francisci, F., Ciucci, P., & Andreoli, G. (1995). Population biology and ecology of feral dogs in central Italy. In J. Serpell (Ed.) The domestic dog: Its evolution, behaviour, and interactions with people. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bräuer, J., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2004). Visual perspective taking in dogs (Canis familiaris) in the presence of barriers. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 88, 299–317.Google Scholar
  10. Call, J., Bräuer, J, Kaminski, J., & Tomasello, M. (2003). Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are sensitive to the attentional state of humans. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 117, 257–263.Google Scholar
  11. Cooper, J.J ., Ashton, C., Bishop, S., West, R., Mills, D.S., & Young, R.J. (2003). Clever hounds: Social cognition in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 81, 229–244.Google Scholar
  12. Coppinger, R., & Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: A startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior and evolution. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  13. Daniels, T. J. (1983). The social organization of free-ranging urban dogs: Non-estrous social behavior. Applied Animal Ethology, 10, 341–363.Google Scholar
  14. Daniels, T. J., & Bekoff, M. (1989). Population and social biology of free-ranging dogs, Canis familiaris. Journal of Mammalogy, 70, 754.Google Scholar
  15. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  16. Elgier, A. M., Jakovcevic, A., Mustaca, A. E., & Bentosela, M. (2009). Learning and owner-stranger effects on interspecific communication in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 81, 44–49.Google Scholar
  17. Elliott, O., & King, J. A. (1960). Effect of early food deprivation upon later consummatory behavior in puppies. Psychological Reports, 6, 391–400.Google Scholar
  18. Fentress, J. C. (1967). Observations on the behavioral development of a hand-reared male timber wolf. American Zoologist, 7, 339–351.Google Scholar
  19. Feuerbacher, E. N., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2011). A history of dogs as subjects in North American experimental psychological research. Comparative Cognition and Behaviour Reviews, 6, 46–71.Google Scholar
  20. Feuerbacher, E. N., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2012). Relative efficacy of human social interaction and food as reinforcers for domestic dogs and hand-reared wolves. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, 98, 105–129.Google Scholar
  21. Feuerbacher, E. N. & Wynne, C. D. L. (in prep). Most domestic dogs’ (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer food to petting: Population differences and schedule effects in concurrent choice. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.Google Scholar
  22. Feuerbacher, E. N. & Wynne, C. D. L. (in prep). Domestic dogs’ (Canis lupus familiaris) preference for human social interaction in a single-alternative choice.Google Scholar
  23. Fonberg, E., Kostarczyk, E., Prechtl, J. (1981). Training of instrumental responses in dogs socially reinforced by humans. Pavlovian Journal of Biological Sciences, 16, 183–193.Google Scholar
  24. Fox, M. W. (1964). The ontogeny of behaviour and neurologic responses in the dog. Animal Behaviour, 12, 301–310.Google Scholar
  25. Frank, H., & Frank, M. G. (1982). On the effects of domestication on canine social development and behavior. Applied Animal Ethology, 8, 507–525.Google Scholar
  26. Frank, H., & Frank, M. (1987). The University of Michigan canine information-processing project 1979–1981, In H. Frank (Ed.) Man and wolf: Advances, issues, and problems in captive wolf and wolf-poodle hybrids. Dordrecht: W. Junk Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Frank, H., Hasselbach, L. M., & Littleton, D. M. (1987). Socialized vs. unsocialized wolves (Canis lupus) in experimental research. In M. W. Fox & L. D. Mickley (Eds.) Advances in animal welfare science (pp. 33–49). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Freedman, D. G., King, J. A., & Elliot, O. (1960). Critical period in the social development of dogs. Science, 133, 1016–1017.Google Scholar
  29. Fukuzawa, M., & Hayashi, N. (2013). Comparison of 3 different reinforcements of learning in dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4), 221–224.Google Scholar
  30. Gácsi, M., Miklósi, Á., Varga, O., Topal, J., & Csanyi, V. (2004). Are readers of our face readers of our minds? Dogs (Canis familiaris) show situation-dependent recognition of human’s attention. Animal Cognition, 7, 144–153.Google Scholar
  31. Gácsi, M., Gyóri, B., Miklósi, A., Virányi, Z., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., et al. (2005). Species-specific differences and similarities in the behavior of hand-raised dog and wolf pups in social situations with humans. Developmental Psychobiology, 47, 111–122.Google Scholar
  32. Gácsi, M., Gyori, B., Viranyi, Z., Kubinyi, E., Range, F., Belenyi, B., et al. (2009a). Explaining dog wolf differences in utilizing human pointing gestures: Selection for synergistic shifts in the development of some social skills. PLoS ONE, 4(8), e6584.Google Scholar
  33. Gácsi, M., Kara, E., Belenyi, B., Topal, J., & Miklósi, Á. (2009b). The effect of development and individual differences in pointing comprehension of dogs. Animal Cognition, 12, 471–479.Google Scholar
  34. Gantt, W. H., Newton, J. E. O., Royer, F. L., et al. (1966). Effect of person. Conditioned Reflex, 1, 146–160.Google Scholar
  35. Gilchrist, J., Sacks, J. J., White, D., & Kresnow, M.-J. (2008). Dog bites: Still a problem? Injury Prevention, 14, 296–301.Google Scholar
  36. Gipson, P. S., Gipson, I. K., & Sealander, J. A. (1975). Reproductive biology of wild Canis (Canidae) in Arkansas. Journal of Mammalogy, 56, 605–612.Google Scholar
  37. Giret, N., Miklósi, Á., Kreutzer, M., & Bovet, D. (2008). Use of experimenter-given cues by African gray parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Animal Cognition,12, 1–10.Google Scholar
  38. Giret, N., Miklósi, Á., Kreutzer, M., & Bovet, D. (2009). Use of experimenter-given cues by African gray parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Animal Cognition, 12(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  39. Ghosh, B., Choudhuri, D. K., & Pal, B. (1984/85). Some aspects of the sexual behaviour of stray dogs, Canis familiaris. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 13, 113–127.Google Scholar
  40. Hall, N. J., Udell, M. A. R., Dorey, N. R., Walsh, A. L., & Wynne, C. D. L (2011). Megachiropteran bats (Pteropus) utilize human referential stimuli to locate hidden food. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 125, 341–346.Google Scholar
  41. Hare B., Brown, M., Williamson, C., & Tomasello, M. (2002). The Domestication of Social Cognition in Dogs. Science, 298, 1634–1636.Google Scholar
  42. Hare, B., Plyusnina, I., Ignacio, N., Schepina, O., Stepika, A., Wrangham, R., et al. (2005). Social cognitive evolution in captive foxes is a correlated by-product of experimental domestication. Current Biology, 15, 226–230.Google Scholar
  43. Hare, B., & Woods, V. (2013). The genius of dogs. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  44. Harlow, H. F., & Zimmerman, R. R. (1959). Affectional responses in the infant monkey. Science, 130, 421–432.Google Scholar
  45. Horowitz, A. (2012). Fair is fine, but more is better: Limits to inequity aversion in the domestic dog. Social Justice Research, 25, 195–212.Google Scholar
  46. Harrington, F. H., Paquet, P. C., Ryon, J., & Fentress, J. C. (1982). Monogamy in wolves: A review of the evidence. In F.H. Harrington and P.C. Paquet (Eds.), Wolves of the world (pp. 209–222). New Jersey: Noyes Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Igel, G. J., & Calvin, A. D. (1960). The development of affectional responses in infant dogs. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 53, 302–205.Google Scholar
  48. Klinghammer, E., & Goodmann, P. A. (1987). Socialization and management of wolves in captivity. In H. Frank (Ed.) Man and wolf: Advances, issues, and problems in captive wolf research. Dordrecht: W. Junk.Google Scholar
  49. Kuhne, F., Hößler, J. C., & Struwe, R. (2012). Effects of human-dog familiarity on dogs’ behavioural responses to petting. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 142, 176–181.Google Scholar
  50. Laveaux, J. C., & King of Prussia, F. (1789). The life of Frederick the Second, King of Prussia: To which are Added Observations, Authentic Documents, and a Variety of Anecdotes. London: J. Derbett.Google Scholar
  51. Lord, K. (2013). A comparison of the sensory development of wolves (Canis lupus lupus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Ethology, 119, 110–120.Google Scholar
  52. Lord, K., Feinstein, M., Smith, B., & Coppinger, C. (2013). Variation in reproductive traits of members of the genus Canis with special attention to the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Behavioural Processes, 92, 131–142.Google Scholar
  53. Lynch, J. J., & Gantt, H. W. (1968). The heart rate component of the social reflex in dogs: The conditional effects of petting and person. Conditioned Reflex, 3, 69–80.Google Scholar
  54. Lynch, J. J. (1987). W. Horsley Gantt’s effect of person. In F.J. McGuigan & T. A. Ban (Eds.) Critical issues in psychology, psychiatry, and physiology: A memorial to W. Horsley Gantt, (pp 93–106). Amsterdam: Gordon and Beach.Google Scholar
  55. Macdonald, D. W., & Carr, G. M., (1995). Variation in dog society: Between resource dispersion and social flux. In J. Serpell, (Ed.) The domestic dog: Its evolution, behaviour, and interactions with people. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. McIntire, R., & Colley, T. A. (1967). Social reinforcement in the dog. Psychological Reports, 20, 843–846.Google Scholar
  57. Mech, L. D., Wolf, P. C., & Packard, J. M. (1999). Regurgitative food transfer among wild wolves. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77, 1192–1195.Google Scholar
  58. Mech, L. D. (1970). The wolf: The ecology and behavior of an endangered species. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press.Google Scholar
  59. 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. Current Biology, 13, 763–766.Google Scholar
  60. Miklósi, Á., Polgárdi, R., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (1998). Use of experimenter-given cues in dogs. Animal Cogition, 1, 113–121.Google Scholar
  61. Miklósi, Á., Polgárdi, R., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (2000). Intentional behaviour in dog-human communication: An experimental analysis of “showing” behaviour in the dog. Animal Cognition, 3, 159–166.Google Scholar
  62. Miklósi, Á., & Soproni, K. (2006). A comparative analysis of animals’ understanding of the human pointing gesture. Animal Cognition, 9, 81–93.Google Scholar
  63. Miklosi, A. (2009). Dog behaviour, evolution, and cognition (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Odendaal, J. S .J., & Meintjes, R. A. (2003). Neurophysiological correlates of affiliative behavior between humans and dogs. Veterinary Journal, 165, 296–301.Google Scholar
  65. Ortolani, A., Vernooij, H., & Coppinger, R. (2009). Ethiopian village dogs: Behavioural responses to a stranger’s approach. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 119, 210–218.Google Scholar
  66. Pack, A. A., & Herman, L. M. (2004). Bottlenosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) comprehend the referent of both static and dynamic human gazing and pointing in an object-choice task. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 118, 160–171.Google Scholar
  67. Packard, J. M. (2003). Wolf behavior: Reproductive, social, and intelligent. In D. Mech, & L. Boitani (Eds.) Wolves: Behavior, ecology, and conservation (pp. 35–65). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  68. Pal, S. K. (2008). Maturation and development of social behaviour during early ontogeny in free-ranging dog puppies in West Bengal, India. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 111, 95–107.Google Scholar
  69. Pal, S. K., Ghosh, B., & Roy, S. (1998.) Agonistic behaviour of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris) in relation to season, sex and age. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 59, 331–348.Google Scholar
  70. Pavlov, I. P. (1928). Lectures on conditioned reflexes (trans Gantt WH). New York: International.Google Scholar
  71. Pilley, J. W., & Reid, A. K. (2011). Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents. Behavioural Processes, 86, 184–195.Google Scholar
  72. Pongracz, P., Miklosi, A., Kubinyi, E., Gurobi, K., Topall, J., & Csanyi, V. (2001). Social learning in dogs: The effect of a human demonstrator on the performance of dogs in a detour task. Animal Behaviour, 62(6), 1109–1117.Google Scholar
  73. Range, F., & Virányi, Z. (2011). Development of gaze following abilities in wolves (Canis lupus). PloS One, 6(2), e16888.Google Scholar
  74. Reid, P. J. (2009). Adapting to the human world: Dogs’ responsiveness to our social cues. Behavioural Processes, 80, 325–333.Google Scholar
  75. Rheingold, H. L. (1963). Maternal behavior in the dog. In H.L. Rheingold (Ed.), Maternal behavior in mammals (pp. 169–202). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  76. Riedel, J., Schumann, K., Kaminski, J., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2008). The early ontogeny of human-dog communication. Animal Behaviour, 75, 1003–1014.Google Scholar
  77. Scheumann, M., & Call, J. (2004). The use of experimenter-given cues by South African fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus). Animal Cognition, 7, 224–230.Google Scholar
  78. Schleidt, W., & Schalter, M. (2003). Co-evolution of humans and canids: An alternative view of dog domestication: Homo Homini Lupus? Evolution & Cognition, 9, 57–72.Google Scholar
  79. Schloegl, C., Kotrschal, K., & Bugnyar, T. (2007). Do common ravens (Corvus corax) rely on human or conspecific gaze cues to detect hidden food? Animal Cognition, 11, 231–241.Google Scholar
  80. Schloegl, C., Kotrschal, K., & Bugnyar, T. (2008). Modifying the object-choice task: Is the way you look important for ravens? Behavioural Processes, 77(1), 61–65.Google Scholar
  81. Scott, J. P., & Fuller, J. L. (1965). Genetics and the social behavior of the dog. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  82. Soproni, K., Miklósi, A., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (2001). Comprehension of human communicative signs in pet dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115, 122–126.Google Scholar
  83. Soproni, K., Miklósi, A., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (2002). Dogs’ (Canis familiaris) responsiveness to human pointing gestures. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 116, 27–34.Google Scholar
  84. Smet, A.F., & Byrne, R.W. (2013). African elephants can use human pointing cues to find hidden food. Current Biology, 23, 2033–2037.Google Scholar
  85. Topál, J., Gácsi, M., Miklósi, Á., Virányi, Z., Kubinyi, E., & Csányi,V. (2005). Attachment to humans: A comparative study on hand-reared wolves and differently socialized dog puppies. Animal Behaviour, 70, 1367–1375.Google Scholar
  86. Topál, J., Byrne, R. W., Miklósi, Á., & Csányi, V. (2006). Reproducing human actions and action sequences: Do as I do! in a dog. Animal Cognition, 9(4), 355–367.Google Scholar
  87. Udell, M. A. R, Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2008a). Wolves outperform dogs in following human social cues. Animal Behaviour, 76, 1767–1773.Google Scholar
  88. Udell, M. A. R, Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2010a). What did domestication do to dogs? A new account of dogs’ sensitivity to C.D.L actions. Biological Reviews, 85, 327–345.Google Scholar
  89. Udell, M. A. R, Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2010b). The performance of stray dogs (Canis familiaris) living in a shelter on human-guided object-choice tasks. Animal Behaviour, 79, 717–725.Google Scholar
  90. Udell, M. A. R, Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2011). Can your dog read your mind? Understanding the causes of canine perspective taking. Learning & Behavior, 39, 289–302.Google Scholar
  91. Udell, M. A. R, Giglio, R. F., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2008b). Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) use human gestures but not nonhuman tokens to find hidden food. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122, 84–93.Google Scholar
  92. Udell, M. A. R, Hall, N. J., Morrison, J., Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2013). Point topography and within-session learning are important predictors of pet dogs’ (Canis lupus familiaris) performance on human guided tasks. Revista Argentina de Ciencias del Comportamiento, 5, 3–20.Google Scholar
  93. Udell, M. A. R, Spencer, J. M., Dorey, N. R., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2012). Human-socialized wolves follow diverse human gestures… and they may not be alone. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 25, 97–117.Google Scholar
  94. Udell, M. A. R, & Wynne, C. D. L. (2008). A review of domestic dogs’ (Canis familiaris) human-like behaviors: Or why behavior analysts should stop worrying and love their dogs. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 89, 247–261.Google Scholar
  95. Udell, M. A. R, & Wynne, C. D. L (2010). Ontogeny and phylogeny: Both are essential to human-sensitive behaviour in the genus Canis. Animal Behaviour, 79, e9–e14.Google Scholar
  96. Virányi, Z., Gácsi, M., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., Belényi, B., Ujfalussy, et al. (2008). Comprehension of human pointing gestures in young human-reared wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris). Animal Cognition, 11, 373–387.Google Scholar
  97. Von Bayern, A. M. P., & Emery,. N. J. (2009). Jackdaws respond to human attentional states and communicative cues in different contexts. Current Biology, 19, 602–606.Google Scholar
  98. World Health Organisation (2005). WHO expert consultation on rabies: First report. WHO Technical Report Series, 931. World Health Organisation. Geneva Switzerland.Google Scholar
  99. Zimen, E. (1987) Ontogeny of approach and flight behavior toward humans in wolves, poodles and wolf-poodle hybrids. In H. Frank (Ed.), Man and wolf (pp. 275–292). Dordrecht: W. Junk Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monique A. R. Udell
    • 1
  • Kathryn Lord
    • 2
  • Erica N. Feuerbacher
    • 3
  • Clive D. L. Wynne
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Animal SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyGettysburg CollegeGettysburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations