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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Domestic dogs’ gaze and behaviour in 2-alternative choice tasks


Species such as humans rely on their excellent visual abilities to perceive and navigate the world. Dogs have co-habited with humans for millennia, yet we know little about how they gather and use visual information to guide decision-making. Across five experiments, we presented pet dogs (N=49) with two foods of unequal value in a 2-alternative choice task, and measured whether dogs showed preferential gazing, and whether visual attention patterns were associated with item choice. Overall, dogs looked significantly longer at the preferred (high value) food over the low value alternative. There was also evidence of item-dependent predictive gaze—dogs looked proportionally longer at the item they subsequently chose. Surprisingly, dogs’ choice behavior was only slightly above chance, despite visual discrimination. These results suggest that dogs use visual information in the environment to inform their choice behavior, but that other factors may also contribute to their decision-making.

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