What determines a dog’s approach to a stranger? – Sociability in Indian free-ranging dogs
Debottam Bhattacharjee, Rohan Sarkar, Shubhra Sau, Anindita Bhadra. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research - Kolkata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Dogs are the first domesticated species in the world. Despite majority of them being free-ranging, factors like human impact on them and their sociability towards humans remain largely under-studied. We examined 600 adult free-ranging dogs to understand their repertoire of sociability towards an unfamiliar human in 60 sites across India. Based on human footfall per minute, sites were grouped as high (≥60), intermediate (≥10; < 60), and low flux (< 10) zones. Initially, a “positive vocalisation phase” was carried out. Unresponsive dogs were further tested in a “stimulus phase”. Positive vocal sounds were used in the first phase while it was paired with food in the latter. An affiliation index (AI) was built based on demeanour, phase–specific approach, and latency of the dogs. Significantly higher AI values were observed in intermediate flux zones. Dogs were opportunistic (responded mostly in stimulus phase) and shy (no approach in most cases) in the high and low flux zones respectively. Sex and density of dogs, and resource abundance did not affect AI. We hypothesize that behavioural responses of the dogs are largely shaped by their lifetime experiences with humans.