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Gazing behavior during problem solving tasks in domestic dogs. A critical review.

Camila Cavalli, Fabricio Carballo, Mariana Bentosela


In the last few years, several studies have assessed dogs’ behavior when confronted with solvable or unsolvable tasks in the presence of human partners. In these situations, dogs tend to gaze towards people, which has been regarded as a help requesting behavior. This ability to attract the attention of a partner towards a target object is consistent with referential signaling and would have a similar function than pointing in human infants. The aim of this work is to review dogs’ communicative behaviors during unsolvable or solvable but difficult tasks, particularly gazing at the human face. To be included in this review, a study had to feature a problem solving task and analyze gazing behavior towards people in the experimental situation. The relevant topics of discussion were grouped into three conceptual areas. The first one focuses on methodological aspects such as the procedures and apparatuses used, the people present during the test, and the behaviors analyzed. The second one discusses some factors which could influence the display of gazing behavior, like species, training experience, living conditions and breed. Finally, a third one comprises neurobiological studies, such as research on heritability and receptor genes as well as the effects of intranasal oxytocin administration on this behavior. Overall, we conclude that gazing behavior to request for help appears to be a prevalent and robust response among dogs, although alternative explanations must be considered. To this end, ideas for further research are proposed. 


gazing behavior, unsolvable task, problem solving, domestic dogs

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