Dogs and their human companions.

The effect of familiarity on dog–human interactions.


You will remember that a couple of weeks ago, Professor Marc Bekoff generously gave me permission to publish his essay Butts and Noses: Secrets and Lessons from Dog Parks. The essence of the essay being that dog parks are gold mines of information about the behavior of dogs and humans. (Post published by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on May 16, 2015 in Animal Emotions.)

The good Professor then went on to say that I was free to republish any of his essays so long as the usual accreditations and links were provided. So yesterday, I started going through the many html links in his essay, that essay may be read here, looking for posts that would interest readers of Learning from Dogs.

Very quickly, I came across this:

Dogs and their human companions: The effect of familiarity on dog–human interactions

Andrea Kerepesi (a), Antal Dóka (a), Ádám Miklósi (b)

(a) Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
(b) MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary

It’s a very interesting piece of research. I’m going to include the Abstract in today’s post and recommend if anyone wants to read the full article that they do so here.

So here is the Abstract.


There are few quantitative examinations of the extent to which dogs discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar persons. In our study we have investigated whether dogs show differential behaviour towards humans of different degrees of familiarity (owner, familiar person, unfamiliar person). Dogs and humans were observed in eight test situations: (1) Three-way strange situation test, (2) Calling in from food, (3) Obedience test, (4) Walking away, (5) Threatening approach, (6) Playful interaction, (7) Food inhibition test and (8) Manipulation of the dog’s body.

Dogs distinguished between the owner and the two other test partners in those tests which involved separation from the owner (Test 1, 4), were aversive for the dog (Test 5) or involved playing interac- tion (Test 6). Our results revealed that the owner cannot be replaced by a familiar person in situations provoking elevated anxiety and fear.

In contrasts, dogs did not discriminate between the owner and the familiar person in those tests that were based on obedient behaviour or behaviour towards an assertive person (Tests 2, 3, 7 and 8). Dogs’ former training experience reduced the difference between their behaviour towards the owner and the familiar person in situations requiring obedience but it did not mask it totally. The dogs’ behaviour towards each of the humans participating in the tests was consistent all over the test series.

In summary, dogs discriminated between their owner and the unfamiliar person and always preferred the owner to the unfamiliar person. However, the discrimination between the owner and the familiar person is context-specific.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Canine Behavior.

© 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Speaking of dog-human interactions, let me close today’s post with this photograph of Jeannie and Casey.


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