Behaviour 2019
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Dogs React to the Social and not the Emotional Valence of Dog Calls
Tamás Faragó1,2, Lilla Kocsis1, Morgane Audiguier1, Soufiane Bel Rhali2, Irene Rojas Atares3, Paula Pérez Fraga1,3, Attila Andics1,3. 1Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary; 2Senior Family Dog Project, Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary; 3MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület’ Neuroethology of Communication Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, , Hungary

Besides the emotional valence that reflects positive or negative inner state, vocalizations also encode social valence: this basic biological meaning reflects whether the listeners’ adaptive reaction would be approaching (positive) or avoiding (negative) the caller. Emotional and social valence can conflict: distress calls reflect a negative inner state of the caller but a positive social meaning. Are listeners’ approach/avoidance reactions to calls evoked by emotional or social positivity/negativity? To test how the emotional and social valence of calls affect dogs’ reactions, we played back agonistic (growls) distress (whines) and playful/comfort calls (growls, grunts, moans) from a hidden speaker to 52 dogs in 3 groups, respectively. We coded their initial approach or avoidance reaction and compared their latencies and occurrences between groups. Dogs that heard distress or playful/comfort calls approached the speaker more likely and sooner, while those that heard agonistic growls reacted more likely and sooner with withdrawal. Dogs approach and avoidance reactions thus reflect the basic biological meaning (social valence) rather than the emotional valence of conspecific calls.