The presented study examines the ability of 265 children aged 4–12 years to correctly assign contextual cues and inner state values to a set of audio and audio-visual recordings of dog vocalizations and behaviors in different situations. Participants were asked to mark which situation each recording captured, what inner state of the dog it showed, and what inner state a human would feel in the same situation. Recognition of the inner state of dogs was affected by the age of the child when evaluating the audio recordings (p
< 0.001), and such a tendency was revealed in evaluating the audiovisual materials (p
= 0.08). The inner state of dog evaluation was associated with both the situation assessment (p
< 0.01) and human inner state (p
< 0.001) in the case of audio recordings, but it was only correlated with situation assessment in audio-visual recordings (p
< 0.01). The contextual situations were recognized by the participants only in the audio materials, with “stranger” being the best recognized situation, while “play” was the least recognized. Overall, children aged 4–5 years showed a limited ability to understand dog signals compared to children aged 6–12 years, who were successful in recognizing the dogs’ stimuli more than 80% of the time. Therefore, children younger than 6 years of age require increased supervision when interacting with dogs.
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