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Title: Collaborative interactions between humans and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)
Author: Piotti, Patrizia
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 9551
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2017
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Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are ideal subjects for the comparative study of collaboration: they form stable social groups, engage in cooperative behaviour, and are characterised by human-like social skills. Moreover, dogs understand when human communication is intended for them, they obtain information about the emotional valence of human facial expressions and vocalisations, and readily form attachment bonds with humans. It has been hypothesised that, during the domestication process, dogs have been selected for collaborative activities with humans and evolved some human-like social skills as an adaptation to life with humans. However, collaborative interactions between dogs and humans are understudied and not well understood. The aim of this research is to explore dogs’ behaviour in contexts seen as the building blocks for successful collaboration: informative communication, reputation forming, and other regarding preferences. In the first chapter of the thesis I review the literature on these topics. In Chapter 2, I explore the applicability to dogs of an experimental method for the comparative study of informative communication. In Chapter 3, with a simplified protocol, I provide evidence that dogs have some level of understanding of the relevance of the target for a human partner. Chapter 4 investigates reputation forming in dogs, suggesting that they do not take into account their previous experience about a human partner’s skilfulness when they communicate to request human help. In Chapter 5, I use a novel apparatus for the study of other-regarding preferences, confirming that, in a food sharing situation, dogs do not act altruistically towards humans but are rather motivated by the expectation of obtaining the food reward. Finally, in Chapter 6 I discuss the findings in the light of the current literature. The research presented in this PhD provides evidence that dogs may possess some of the building blocks of collaboration but not others. Specifically, they may have some understanding of the relevance of a target of communication for a human partner. However, there is no evidence that dogs’ can use reputation judgments in collaborative contexts as flexibly as humans or chimpanzees, and in terms of other-regarding preferences, dogs do not appear to act altruistically towards humans when food is involved. Overall, the current results may be taken as a confirmation that dogs’ human-like social skills may represent a specialisation to receive human communication.
Supervisor: Kaminski, Juliane ; Morris, Paul Haydn ; Waller, Bridget Marguerite Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available