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Article

Can Dogs Limbo? Dogs’ Perception of Affordances for Negotiating an Opening

Dog Cognition Lab., Department of Psychology, Barnard College, New York, NY 10027, USA
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Academic Editor: Lucia Regolin
Animals 2021, 11(3), 620; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030620
Received: 1 February 2021 / Revised: 23 February 2021 / Accepted: 24 February 2021 / Published: 26 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Collection Behavioural Methods to Study Cognitive Capacities of Animals)
Recent behavioral research with domestic dogs has focused largely on their social cognition: how they interact with and interpret both other dogs and humans. Less well studied are the various aspects of their perceptual experience which might provide knowledge of how they understand the non-social world and themselves. In two studies, we look at how dogs navigate their environment. We first set up a situation to test whether dogs understand when they are too big to go through an opening; we also look at how they adjust their bodies to increasingly smaller (shorter) openings. We then also look at how dogs navigate an opening when their body width is effectively increased by their holding a stick in their mouth. We find that dogs show more hesitation approaching openings that are too small than ones through which they comfortably fit. Dogs of all sizes also change their behavior in a uniform way to negotiate short openings. When holding a stick, dogs did not initially change their behavior but are able to negotiate through an opening with experience. Researching how dogs navigate through a changing environment may be a fruitful way to begin to understand their sense of themselves.
Very little research has focused on canines’ understanding of their own size, and their ability to apply this understanding to their surroundings. The current study tests domestic dogs’ judgment of their body size in relation to a changing environment in two novel experimental situations: when encountering an opening of decreasing height (Study 1) and when negotiating an opening when carrying a stick in their mouth (Study 2). We hypothesized that if dogs understand their own body size, they will accurately judge when an opening is too small for their body to fit through, showing longer latencies to approach the smaller openings and adjusting their body appropriately to get through—although this judgment may not extend to when their body size is effectively increased. In line with these hypotheses, we found that the latency for subjects to reach an aperture they could easily fit through was significantly shorter than to one which was almost too small to fit through. We also found that the order of subjects’ adjustments to negotiate an aperture was invariant across individuals, indicating that dogs’ perception of affordances to fit through an aperture is action-scaled. Preliminary results suggest that dogs’ approach behavior is different when a horizontal appendage is introduced, but that dogs were able to alter their behavior with experience. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that dogs understand their own body size and the affordances of their changing environment. View Full-Text
Keywords: domestic dogs; affordances; behavior; body size; size sense; size perception; sense of self; animal cognition; self-representation domestic dogs; affordances; behavior; body size; size sense; size perception; sense of self; animal cognition; self-representation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Horowitz, A.; West, E.; Ball, M.; Bagwell, B. Can Dogs Limbo? Dogs’ Perception of Affordances for Negotiating an Opening. Animals 2021, 11, 620. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030620

AMA Style

Horowitz A, West E, Ball M, Bagwell B. Can Dogs Limbo? Dogs’ Perception of Affordances for Negotiating an Opening. Animals. 2021; 11(3):620. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030620

Chicago/Turabian Style

Horowitz, Alexandra, Eloise West, Molly Ball, and Blakeley Bagwell. 2021. "Can Dogs Limbo? Dogs’ Perception of Affordances for Negotiating an Opening" Animals 11, no. 3: 620. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030620

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