Sex differences in dogs’ social learning of spatial information

Fugazza C, Mongillo P, Marinelli L (2017)
Animal Cognition, 20(4):789-794


We used a modified version of the Do as I Do paradigm to investigate dogs’ preference and flexibility in the acquisition of different types of spatial information in social learning situations. When required to match the location of the demonstration, dogs (N = 16) preferentially relied on allocentric information, i.e., the relationship between the location of the demonstration and the various objects surrounding it. However, when allocentric cues were inadequate to solve the task, dogs learned to rely on egocentric information, i.e., the direction—left/right—taken by the human demonstrator. The ease of resorting to the non-preferred egocentric strategy was sex-dependent with males acquiring the egocentric strategy in fewer trials than females. This study shows that dogs rely preferentially on allocentric cues when recalling socially acquired spatial information. However, they are impressively flexible in switching to egocentric strategies according to the task requirements. Whether preference for the allocentric strategy in processing spatial information is embedded in the nature of social learning or restricted to our paradigm is an open question. This study also supports the idea that sex differences in cognitive domains are widespread among mammals and calls for further investigations aimed at shedding light on the evolution, function and mechanisms of such differences.

Dog, Do as I Do, Sex, Spatial cognition, Social learning

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