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Data from: Free-ranging dogs prefer petting over food in repeated interactions with unfamiliar humans


Bhattacharjee, Debottam; Sau, Shubhra; Das, Jayjit; Bhadra, Anindita (2017), Data from: Free-ranging dogs prefer petting over food in repeated interactions with unfamiliar humans, Dryad, Dataset,


Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the first species to have been domesticated, and unlike other domesticated species, they have developed a special bonding with their owners. The ability to respond to human gestures and language, and the hypersocial behaviours of dogs are considered key factors that have led them to become man's best friend. Free-ranging dogs provide an excellent model system for understanding the dog-human relationship in various social contexts. In India, free-ranging dogs occur in all possible human habitations. They scavenge among garbage, beg for food from humans, give birth in dens close to human habitations, and establish social bonds with people. However, there is ample dog-human conflict on the streets, leading to morbidity and mortality of dogs. Hence the ability to assess an unfamiliar human before establishing physical contact could be adaptive for dogs especially in the urban environment. We tested a total of 103 adult free-ranging dogs to investigate their response to immediate social and long-term food and social rewards. The dogs were provided a choice of obtaining a food reward either from the experimenter's hand or the ground. The dogs avoided making physical contact with the unfamiliar human. While immediate social reward was not effective in changing this response, the long-term test showed a strong effect of the social contact on the dogs' response. Our results revealed that these dogs tend to build trust based on affection, and not food rewards. The study provides significant insights into the dynamics of dog-human interactions on the streets and subsequent changes in behaviours of dogs through the process of learning.

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