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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Discrimination of person odor by owned domestic dogs


In the field of dog cognition research, many studies assume that their subjects have multimodal recognition of their owner: Experiments using the face or voice of the person have proliferated. An outstanding question is whether owned domestic dogs represent the people with whom they live via smell. Olfaction is a principle sensory modality for dogs, and there is evidence that it is integral to recognition of conspecifics. In the current study, we investigated whether owned dogs spontaneously (without training) distinguished their owner's odor from a stranger's odor. Using natural body odor captured on a t-shirt, we found that dogs habituated to a familiar odor and dishabituated to an unfamiliar odor. This finding begins to answer the question of how dogs recognize and represent humans, including their owners.

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