Data from: Free-ranging dogs show age related plasticity in their ability to follow human pointing
Bhattacharjee, Debottam et al. (2018), Data from: Free-ranging dogs show age related plasticity in their ability to follow human pointing, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3324n
Differences in pet dogs’ and captive wolves’ ability to follow human communicative intents have led to the proposition of several hypotheses regarding the possession and development of social cognitive skills in dogs. It is possible that the social cognitive abilities of pet dogs are induced by indirect conditioning through living with humans, and studying free-ranging dogs can provide deeper insights into differentiating between innate abilities and conditioning in dogs. Free-ranging dogs are mostly scavengers, indirectly depending on humans for their sustenance. Humans can act both as food providers and as threats to these dogs, and thus understanding human gestures can be a survival need for the free-ranging dogs. We tested the responsiveness of such dogs in urban areas toward simple human pointing cues using dynamic proximal points. Our experiment showed that pups readily follow proximal pointing and exhibit weaker avoidance to humans, but stop doing so at the later stages of development. While juveniles showed frequent and prolonged gaze alternations, only adults adjusted their behaviour based on the reliability of the human experimenter after being rewarded. Thus free-ranging dogs show a tendency to respond to human pointing gestures, with a certain level of behavioural plasticity that allows learning from ontogenic experience.