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Data from: Free-ranging dogs are capable of comprehending complex human pointing cues

Citation

Bhattacharjee, Debottam et al. (2019), Data from: Free-ranging dogs are capable of comprehending complex human pointing cues, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jq2bvq85n

Abstract

Dogs are one of the most common species to be found as pets and have been subjects of human curiosity, leading to extensive research on their socialization with humans. One of the dominant themes in dog cognition pertains to their capacity of understanding and responding to human referential gestures. The remarkable socio-cognitive skills of pet dogs, while interacting with humans, is quite well established. However, studies regarding the free-ranging subpopulations are greatly lacking. The interactions of these dogs with humans are quite complex and multidimensional. For the first time, we tested 160 adult free-ranging dogs to understand their ability to follow relatively complex human referential gestures using dynamic and momentary distal pointing cues. We found that these dogs are capable of following distal pointing cues from humans to locate hidden food rewards. However, approximately half of the population tested showed a lack of tendency to participate even after successful familiarization with the experimental set-up. A closer inspection revealed anxious behavioural states of the individuals were responsible for such an outcome. Finally, we compared the results using data from an earlier study with dynamic proximal cues. We found that free-ranging dogs follow distal cues more accurately compared to proximal cue. We assume that life experiences with humans probably shape personalities of free-ranging dogs, which in turn influence their responsiveness to human communicative gestures.