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Dogs have a unique history of ancient collaboration with humans. No doubt this explains their abilities to communicate with us: understanding us and communicating back. These abilities surpass those of species evolutionary and genetically closer to humans. Indeed, Research showed that chimpanzees understand human cues worse than dogs.

Dog breeds have a complex history, the first part of their evolution probably centered on domestication, selection for low fear of humans. Then, humans shaped the dog breeds as specialised working companions (guarding, herding, hunting...). But a shift has happened in the past couple of centuries, towards selection for aesthetic characteristics and dog shows, and a predominance of pet dogs.

The two breeds my study focuses on are classified in different breed groups by the Swedish Kennel Club: the German Shepherds are in the pasture and cattle dog group while the Labrador retriever is in the retrieving and water dog group. However, mostly pet dogs were recruited here, and Research highlighted the impact of recent breeding history on dog behaviour.

I will go deeper into the communication behaviours, with the help of two tests: a pointing test which enables to study the understanding of human cues in the dogs, and a problem solving test which allows to investigate human directed communication from the dogs.

Complementary to the behavioural testing data, the dog owners filled a behavioural questionnaire (C-BARQ), and hair cortisol was analysed, as a baseline long-term indicator of stress and activity.

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 05/03/15