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Open AccessArticle

Dogs (Canis familiaris) Gaze at Our Hands: A Preliminary Eye-Tracker Experiment on Selective Attention in Dogs

School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University, CityTowada, Aomori 034-8628, Japan
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Animals 2020, 10(5), 755; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050755
Received: 28 March 2020 / Revised: 20 April 2020 / Accepted: 20 April 2020 / Published: 26 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
Dogs seem to communicate with humans successfully by getting social information from body signals such as hand signs. However, less is known regarding how dogs pay attention visually toward human body signals including hand signs. The objective of this pilot study was to reveal dogs’ social visual attention tuned to inter-species communication with humans by comparing gazing patterns to the whole body of human, dogs, and cats. The pictures showing humans with or without hand signs, dogs, and cats were presented on a liquid crystal display monitor, and gazing behaviors of subject dogs to these pictures were recorded by an eye-tracking device. The subjects gazed at human limns more frequently than limbs within conspecifics and cat images, where the dogs attention were focused on the head and body. Furthermore, gaze toward hands was greater in the human hand sign photos relative to photos where human hand signs were not present. These results indicate that dogs have an attentional style specialized for human non-verbal communication, with an emphasis placed on human hand gestures.
Dogs have developed a social competence tuned to communicate with human and acquire social information from body signals as well as facial expressions. However, less is known regarding how dogs shift attention toward human body signals, specifically hand signs. Comparison among visual attentional patterns of dogs toward whole body of human being, conspecifics, and other species will reveal dogs’ basic social competences and those specialized to inter-species communication with humans. The present study investigated dogs’ gazing behaviors in three conditions: viewing humans with or without hand signs, viewing conspecifics, and viewing cats. Digital color photographs were presented on a liquid crystal display monitor, and subject dogs viewed the images while their eyes were tracked. Results revealed that subjects gazed at human limbs more than limbs within conspecific and cat images, where attention was predominately focused on the head and body. Furthermore, gaze toward hands was greater in the human hand sign photos relative to photos where human hand signs were not present. These results indicate that dogs have an attentional style specialized for human non-verbal communication, with an emphasis placed on human hand gestures. View Full-Text
Keywords: attention; dog; eye tracking; non-verbal communication; visual attention attention; dog; eye tracking; non-verbal communication; visual attention
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Ogura, T.; Maki, M.; Nagata, S.; Nakamura, S. Dogs (Canis familiaris) Gaze at Our Hands: A Preliminary Eye-Tracker Experiment on Selective Attention in Dogs. Animals 2020, 10, 755.

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