Oxytocin enhances the appropriate use of human social cues by the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) in an object choice task

Oliva, J.L., Rault, J.-L., Appleton, B., and Lill, A. (2015) Oxytocin enhances the appropriate use of human social cues by the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) in an object choice task. Animal Cognition, 18. pp. 767-775.

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Abstract

It has been postulated that the neuropeptide, oxytocin, is involved in human–dog bonding. This may explain why dogs, compared to wolves, are such good performers on object choice tasks, which test their ability to attend to, and use, human social cues in order to find hidden food treats. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of intranasal oxytocin administration, which is known to increase social cognition in humans, on domestic dogs’ ability to perform such a task. We hypothesised that dogs would perform better on the task after an intranasal treatment of oxytocin. Sixty-two (31 males and 31 females) pet dogs completed the experiment over two different testing sessions, 5–15 days apart. Intranasal oxytocin or a saline control was administered 45 min before each session. All dogs received both treatments in a pseudo-randomised, counterbalanced order. Data were collected as scores out of ten for each of the four blocks of trials in each session. Two blocks of trials were conducted using a momentary distal pointing cue and two using a gazing cue, given by the experimenter. Oxytocin enhanced performance using momentary distal pointing cues, and this enhanced level of performance was maintained over 5–15 days time in the absence of oxytocin. Oxytocin also decreased aversion to gazing cues, in that performance was below chance levels after saline administration but at chance levels after oxytocin administration.

Item ID: 65915
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1435-9456
Keywords: Cognition; Cues; Dog; Oxytocin; Social
Copyright Information: © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2021 02:48
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060304 Ethology and Sociobiology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060305 Evolution of Developmental Systems @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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