Testing Dogs’ Preference to Attend to Attention-Related Behaviors in Others
Dana Ravid-Schurr1, 2, Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere1, 3, Bertram O. Ploog1, 2. 1CUNY Graduate Center, New York, New York, United States; 2College of Staten Island, CUNY, Staten Island, New York, United States; 3Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, United States

Several studies showed that dogs behave in accordance with others’ attention (Horowitz, 2009; Udell et al., 2011). However, it is not clear whether dogs attribute attention to others (private behavior) or rely on observable (public) behaviors to predict certain outcomes. This study tests whether dogs rely on others’ attention-correlated behaviors or on other observable behaviors, when both may function as discriminative stimuli. Dogs are trained to approach a Baiter when an Agent retrieves a treat from under a mat, after having watched the baiting; and to approach the mat when the Agent fails to get the treat, after having their back turned to the baiting. In the test, the Agent’s behavior is modified, so that in some trials the Agent’s attention-correlated behavior (looking/not looking) is incongruent with the condition, and in other trials other components of the Agent’s behavior are incongruent with the condition. The impact of each incongruent component of the Agent’s behavior on the dogs’ choices will help determine which stimulus controls the dogs’ behavior – the attention related component or other components. Data collection will be completed by June 2024.