CZAAWE Resource Article

Dogs, Canis familiaris, communicate with humans to request but not to inform
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Animal Behaviour
Dogs are especially skilful at comprehending human communicative signals. This raises the question of whether they are also able to produce such signals flexibly, specifically, whether they helpfully produce indicative (‘showing’) behaviours to inform an ignorant human. In experiment 1, dogs indicated the location of an object more frequently when it was something they wanted themselves than when it was something the human wanted. There was some suggestion that this might be different when the human was their owner. So in experiment 2 we investigated whether dogs could understand when the owner needed helpful information to find a particular object (out of two) that they needed. They did not. Our findings, therefore, do not support the hypothesis that dogs communicate with humans to inform them of things they do not know.