Dogs’ use of the solidity principle: revisited
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A wealth of comparative data has been accumulated over the past decades on how animals acquire and use information about the physical world. Domestic dogs have typically performed comparably poorly in physical cognition tasks, though in a recent study Kundey et al. (Anim Cogn 13:497–505, 2010) challenged this view and concluded that dogs understand that objects cannot pass through solid barriers. However, the eight subjects in the study of Kundey et al. may have solved the task with the help of perceptual cues, which had not been controlled for. Here, we tested dogs with a similar task that excluded these cues. In addition, unlike the set-up of Kundey et al., our set-up allowed the subjects to observe the effect of the solid barrier. Nevertheless, all 28 subjects failed to solve this task spontaneously and showed no evidence of learning across 50 trials. Our results therefore call into question the earlier suggestion that dogs have, or can acquire, an understanding of the solidity principle.
KeywordsPhysical knowledge Object knowledge Perceptual cues Canis familiaris
We thank Alina Gaugg, Amelie Göschl, Elisabeth Pikhart, Magdalena Weiler and Elena Zanchi for help with the experiments; the dog owners for participation and the reviewers for constructive comments. This work was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF Grant P21418 to L.H. and F.R.). S.R. was also supported by the DK CogCom Programme (FWF Doctoral Programs W1234), and the Clever Dog Lab received financial support from Royal Canin and a private sponsor.
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