Uncovering the origins of dog–human eye contact: dingoes establish eye contact more than wolves, but less than dogs

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Angie M. Johnston, Courtney Turrin, Lyn Watson, Alyssa M. Arre, Laurie R. Santos
Animal Behaviour
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Through domestication, dogs have developed a robust ability to form interspecific bonds with humans. Recent work comparing dogs and wolves suggests that eye contact is an important behaviour underlying these social bonds; however, it remains unclear how this feature of interspecific social bonding evolved. We explored eye contact in a unique comparison species that represents an intermediate point in canid domestication: the Australian dingo (Canis dingo). Across two different studies with two different human handlers, we examined dingo-initiated eye contact using a method similar to one previously used with dogs and wolves. In contrast to wolves tested previously, dingoes initiated eye contact with a human, but did so for a shorter time than dogs. Given that dingoes share only an early domestication history with dogs, our results suggest that the motivation to initiate eye contact with humans may have evolved relatively early in domestication. However, the tendency to maintain prolonged eye contact with a familiar human may have evolved later. These results shed new light on the evolutionary steps by which humans and dogs developed their unique social bond.


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