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When facing an unfamiliar person, pet dogs present social referencing based on their owners' direction of movement alone

  • Title: When facing an unfamiliar person, pet dogs present social referencing based on their owners' direction of movement alone
  • Description:
    Animal Behaviour, Volume 113, March 2016, Pages 147-156. Authors: Charlotte Duranton, Thierry Bedossa, Florence Gaunet.

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  • Category: Behavior

  • Abstract / Overview:
  • When confronted with an unfamiliar object, dogs, Canis familiaris, engage in social referencing, i.e. synchronizing their reaction with that of their owner. The question of whether, like infants, they do so when confronted with an unfamiliar person, has not yet been studied. We tested the reactions of 72 pet dogs (36 shepherds and 36 molossoids) that were confronted with an unfamiliar person who approached them in a neutral manner. The dogs' owners were instructed to behave in one of three ways towards the stranger: stay still, approach or retreat. The dogs performed referential looks and gaze alternations between the experimenter and their owner.

    These findings suggest a new way to manage dogs' reactions in public places.