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As our long-term companions, dogs’ communication with us is perhaps the most developed of all human-animal ones. This study was aimed to investigate breed differences of German Shepherds and Labradors in dog-human communication. This was obtained through two tests: a problem-solving task and a pointing test. These two tests target both directions of communication: how much dogs understand and respond to the pointing and how they communicate with humans when facing a problem. Additionally, hair cortisol was measured in the dogs and dog owners filled a behavioural questionnaire (C-BARQ). The main breed difference I found was that Labradors performed better in both tests. I also found that the latency of the dogs’ choices in the pointing test correlated with many factors, e.g. they chose quicker when: choosing correctly, when they had many physical contacts with the experimenter in the problem-solving task, when they were more intense, energetic dogs, when they had higher hair cortisol levels and when they had a confident body posture. This indicates that the latency of choice could depend on the confidence of the dog and on the trust in the experimenter as well as on energy level and focus abilities. Overall, this study revealed a limited amount of breed differences, compared to a parallel study on Labrador types (hunting and show dogs), showing that intra-breed differences can be more important than inter-breed ones on a behavioural level.

Keywords: C-BARQ, communication, cortisol, dog breed, German shepherd, Labrador, pointing test, problem-solving test

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 05/02/15