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Addendum published on 27 September 2021, see Animals 2021, 11(10), 2815.
Article

Grumpy Dogs Are Smart Learners—The Association between Dog–Owner Relationship and Dogs’ Performance in a Social Learning Task

Department of Ethology, ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, 1053 Budapest, Hungary
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paola Maria Valsecchi
Animals 2021, 11(4), 961; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11040961
Received: 25 February 2021 / Revised: 23 March 2021 / Accepted: 26 March 2021 / Published: 30 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion)
Dogs show considerable individual variability of success in social learning tasks. One of the factors associated with this variance is the dogs’ social rank, but no studies so far investigated the role of dog–owner relationship in this matter. We investigated how this relationship, with a focus on behaviour-problems, might affect social learning from the owner and strangers. We used a questionnaire and two behaviour tests to assess the dogs’ attitude towards their owner, and tested the dogs in a well-established detour reaching task without demonstration (individual problem-solving), with owner demonstration and with experimenter (unfamiliar human) demonstration. In general, dogs detoured faster if a human demonstrated the task. In case of unfamiliar demonstrator, dogs that scored higher on aggression and assertiveness-related traits learned better from the demonstrator, but also dogs who had low scores on possessiveness performed better in this condition. Traits relating to attention problems and activity did not affect performance, but these “overactive” dogs looked back at the owner less frequently during the individual problem-solving scenario. Our results indicate that dog–human relationship may have a complex association with various aspects of social interactions between the two species, including problem behaviours and social learning, too.
We investigated how dog–owner relationship–with a focus on possible behavioural problems–might associate with the individual variability in dogs’ social learning performance. Dog owners first completed a questionnaire about their relationship with their dogs (N = 98). Then, dogs were tested in a detour test: a control group without demonstration, a group where the owner demonstrated the task and another group where the experimenter demonstrated the task. Finally, the dogs participated in two behaviour tests measuring their tractability and possessiveness. The two principal components from the questionnaire (called “overactive” and “irritable”) did not show significant association with dogs’ detour performance in the control group. “irritable” dogs performed better in the unfamiliar demonstrator group. These more persistent, goal-oriented dogs also looked back less at their owners during the detour. In the individual problem-solving context, the factor “overactive” had a similar effect on looking back at the owner, suggesting that the items of this component primarily are not connected to the dog–human relationship. Our results indicate that dog–human relationship has an integral role in the complex social behaviour of dogs, which warrants for the need of further empirical testing of the associations between social dynamics in dogs and their relationship with humans, including problem behaviours. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; social learning; detour test; dog–owner relationship dog; social learning; detour test; dog–owner relationship
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MDPI and ACS Style

Pongrácz, P.; Rieger, G.; Vékony, K. Grumpy Dogs Are Smart Learners—The Association between Dog–Owner Relationship and Dogs’ Performance in a Social Learning Task. Animals 2021, 11, 961. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11040961

AMA Style

Pongrácz P, Rieger G, Vékony K. Grumpy Dogs Are Smart Learners—The Association between Dog–Owner Relationship and Dogs’ Performance in a Social Learning Task. Animals. 2021; 11(4):961. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11040961

Chicago/Turabian Style

Pongrácz, Péter, Gabriella Rieger, and Kata Vékony. 2021. "Grumpy Dogs Are Smart Learners—The Association between Dog–Owner Relationship and Dogs’ Performance in a Social Learning Task" Animals 11, no. 4: 961. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11040961

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