Dogs, Canis familiaris, communicate with humans to request but not to inform

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
J. Kaminski, M. Neumann, J. Bräuer, J. Call, M. Tomasello
Animal Behaviour
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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.


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