Article

Most domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer food to petting: Population, context, and schedule effects in concurrent choice

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Abstract

Previous research has indicated both petting (McIntire & Colley, 1967) and food (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2012) have reinforcing effects on dog behavior and support social behavior towards humans (food: Elliot & King, 1960; social interaction: Brodbeck, 1954). Which type of interaction dogs prefer and which might produce the most social behavior from a dog has not been investigated. In the current study, we assessed how dogs allocated their responding in a concurrent choice between food and petting. Dogs received five 5-min sessions each. In Session 1, both food and petting were continuously delivered contingent on the dog being near the person providing the respective consequence. Across the next three sessions, we thinned the food schedule to a Fixed Interval (FI) 15-s, FI 1-min, and finally extinction. The fifth session reversed back to the original food contingency. We tested owned dogs in familiar (daycare) and unfamiliar (laboratory room) environments, and with their owner or a stranger as the person providing petting. In general, dogs preferred food to petting when food was readily available and all groups showed sensitivity to the thinning food schedule by decreasing their time allocation to food, although there were group and individual differences in the level of sensitivity. How dogs allocated their time with the petting alternative also varied. We found effects of context, familiarity of the person providing petting, and relative deprivation from social interaction on the amount of time dogs allocated to the petting alternative.

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... Dogs' preference for different human interactions and the impact of familiarity of the person delivering these interactions on dogs' preference has been studied previously in concurrent choice paradigms (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014. Concurrent choice involves presenting the animal with two alternatives that are simultaneously available. ...
... Preference is assessed by comparing the time spent with each alternative and determining if the animal differentially allocated its time to one alternative over the other (Baum & Rachlin, 1969). In a concurrent choice between food and petting, owned dogs were more likely to choose petting over food if petting was provided by their owner rather than a stranger, and this effect was magnified if the experiment took place in an unfamiliar rather than a familiar context (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014). In concurrent choice between the owner and other humans, such as a choice between following an owner, a familiar, or an unfamiliar person when all three simultaneously walked away from the dog, the dogs showed a preference for the owner (Kerepesi et al., 2015). ...
... These owner effects are likely a product of an extended history of reinforcement for the dog, including edible delivery, petting, and access to other reinforcers. Food and petting have been demonstrated to be preferred interactions for dogs (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014;Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2015, respectively) and food delivery functioned as an effective reinforcer for dogs (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2012). Food delivery has also been demonstrated to increase prosocial behavior in dogs (Elliott & King, 1960). ...
Article
The unique relationship between dog and owner has been demonstrated in several experimental procedures, including tests in which dogs are left alone or with a stranger, tests of dogs’ appeasement or social approach when petted by their owner or a stranger, and their ability to learn when taught by their owner or a stranger. In all cases, dogs responded differently to their owner, which has been referred to as a specific attachment, and likely a product of a prolonged history of reinforcement. In the current study, we used a concurrent choice paradigm in which dogs could interact with two people, both of whom provided the same petting interaction, to test whether owned dogs would prefer their owner over a stranger and whether the familiarity of the testing context would influence preference. We also investigated whether shelter and owned dogs tested with two strangers would show a preference between strangers and whether that preference would be similar in magnitude to any preference between the owner and stranger. Owned dogs preferred to interact with their owners when in an unfamiliar context, but allocated more time to the stranger in a familiar context. Both shelter and owned dogs tested with two strangers showed a magnitude of preference for one stranger over the other similar to owned dogs’ preference for owners in an unfamiliar context. These results parallel what has been found in strange situation tests with owned dogs tested with their owners, but the strength of preference shown for one of two strangers indicates dogs can form a preference for one person quickly.
... These results suggest that food, especially under conditions of deprivation, can enhance dogs' social behavior toward humans. In a concurrent choice, shelter and owned dogs typically preferred food to petting and remained in proximity longer to the feeding person, but the schedule of food reinforcement, familiarity of context, familiarity of the person providing petting, and population (owned vs. shelter dogs) affected this preference (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). Food also functions as a potent reinforcer for dogs for arbitrary operant responses (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2012;Fukuzawa and Hayashi, 2013). ...
... Shelter dogs comprise a unique population in that they are relatively deprived of human interaction and reside in a stress-inducing environment (Tuber et al., 1999), both of which might function as motivating factors for making certain forms of interaction more reinforcing. In a choice between food and petting (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014), shelter dogs stood out as a group for their high preference for petting when the food schedule was thinned, and even sometimes preferred petting to food when food was readily available. We tested owned dogs as a comparison to determine the effect of having an attachment figure and consistent human interaction might have on preference. ...
... We tested this last group to determine if there are any conditioning effects on preference. Earlier research has shown that dogs react differently when their owner pets them compared to a stranger (Kuhne et al., 2012) and we found that the presence of the owner impacted dogs' preference for types of interaction (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). ...
... Both people and dogs benefit from positive interaction with each other and this holds true not just for pets who are closely bonded with their owners, but for dogs at shelters as well (see Pop et al., 2014 for a review). For dogs who previously lived in close contact with humans, their past experiences might underpin the reinforcing properties of social interaction (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). When faced with the challenge of approaching and interacting with an unfamiliar person, shelter dogs, as compared to pet dogs, seek more proximity to the unfamiliar person (Barrera et al., 2010). ...
... When faced with the challenge of approaching and interacting with an unfamiliar person, shelter dogs, as compared to pet dogs, seek more proximity to the unfamiliar person (Barrera et al., 2010). It has been suggested that shelter dogs might differ in their preference for types of human social interaction and that this could be a reason for their initial relinquishment to a shelter (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014) if their social behavior does not match the expectations of their owner. Furthermore, even their adoption from a shelter (Protopopova and Wynne, 2014) could be influenced if they show social behavior that potential adopters find appealing. ...
... Some dogs were eager to interact with the volunteer while others were more hesitant. These differences between dogs most likely highlight distinctions in their underlying temperaments (Jones and Gosling, 2005), coping styles (Horvath et al., 2007), length of time spent in the shelter (Wells et al., 2002), past experiences in the test room and past experiences with people (Horvath et al., 2008;Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014;Willen et al., 2017). Given that this study was designed to mimic a "real life" situation where volunteers come into a shelter for the first time to interact with dogs from various backgrounds, these differences were considered ideal for addressing the research question at hand. ...
Article
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It is well established that human interaction has positive effects on shelter dogs. This work set out to answer the question: “Does one 15-min petting session make a difference for shelter dogs?” Fifty-five dogs were subject to one 15-min petting session with one of five unfamiliar volunteers, in an observation room at a county animal shelter. Volunteers were instructed to interact with dogs in a controlled manner. Sessions were video recorded for later analysis of dog behavior. Saliva was collected before and after the session to assess change in cortisol concentrations. Cardiac activity was monitored throughout the session. Dog response to the interaction session was variable, but generally positive. Dogs were categorized into one of three interaction categories based on the amount of time they spent in actual physical contact with the volunteer: highly engaged (>75%), moderately engaged (50–75%) or indifferent (<50%). Generalized Linear Mixed models were used to assess changes in behavior or physiology from beginning (minutes 2 & 3) to end (minutes 14 & 15) of the session and also changes in salivary cortisol concentrations from pre- to post-session. There was no significant change in salivary cortisol concentrations (P > 0.05) from pre- to post- session. However, when comparing cardiac activity and behavior from the first two minutes to the last two minutes of the session, dogs had a decrease in heart rate (P < 0.0001), an increase in heart rate variability (HF: P = 0.0006, RMSSD: P = 0.0365, pNN50: P < 0.0001) and changes in behavior (decreases in soliciting contact P = 0.0124, standing P = 0.0225) associated with a positive state of relaxation. Given the results of this study it appears that the answer is: “Yes, 15 min does make a positive difference” for many shelter dogs when that time includes close interaction with a person petting and speaking to them in a calm manner.
... Given that the neural processes involved in food rewards are concerned with both liking and wanting (Berridge, 1996), the provision of food could conceivably facilitate the formation of strong emotional relationships. Both dogs (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014) and horses (Sankey et al., 2010) have shown a preference for food rewards over physical contact with humans (petting or grooming), confirming the importance of food as a primary reinforcer. Food increases animal attention towards humans, thereby making humans more relevant to animals, Hence, it is likely that food may be pivotal to the formation of attachment bonds to humans in these species. ...
... Although physical contact appears to be less salient than food, physical interactions do have some value. Shelter dogs have shown an increased preference for human petting compared to owned dogs (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). It is likely that, for the shelter dogs, the absence of regular human contact increased the motivation to seek physical attention from the experimenter. ...
Article
This article reviews evidence for the existence of attachment bonds directed toward humans in dog-human and horse-human dyads. It explores each species' alignment with the four features of a typical attachment bond: separation-related distress, safe haven, secure base and proximity seeking. While dog-human dyads show evidence of each of these, there is limited alignment for horse-human dyads. These differences are discussed in the light of the different selection paths of domestic dogs and horses as well as the different contexts in which the two species interact with humans. The role of emotional intelligence in humans as a potential mediator for human-animal relationships, attachment or otherwise, is also examined. Finally, future studies, which may clarify the interplay between attachment, human-animal relationships and emotional intelligence, are proposed. Such avenues of research may help us explore the concepts of trust and bonding that are often said to occur at the dog-human and horse-human interface.
... Petting is a positive interaction between dogs and humans, like caresses, brushing, offering food, games, or other forms of contact ( Government of South Australia, 20 02 ; Mills, 20 03 ;Valsecchi et al., 2007 ). Petting can elicit the expression of positive social behaviors in dogs ( Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014 ). It has been shown to decrease plasma cortisol levels and reduce stress and fear behaviors (such as whining, barking, and panting) in shelter dogs ( Shiverdecker et al., 2013 ;Dudley et al., 2015 ). ...
Article
Undesirable and problematic behaviors such as an increase in aggressiveness and attempts to escape are frequently provoked when a pet dog is maintained for long periods in stressful environments such as veterinary clinics or shelters. Environmental enrichment and petting are strategies to increase dogs’ welfare. The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate which of these techniques is better at improving dogs’ welfare in a unique veterinary clinic setting based on the dogs’ behavioral responses. Eight dogs were studied, with four receiving environmental enrichment and four receiving petting (direct human contact). Behaviors were recorded before, during and after applications. These conditions were compared using generalized linear mixed models and Friedman's test. Both methods proved to be efficient and feasible for dogs in this type of setting. In general, environmental enrichment increased the activity of the dogs, since they walked and dug more compared to dogs who were petted. Dogs exhibited more positive social interactions after petting. The other behaviors were exhibited in the same proportion in both treatments. Thus, both interventions can be used to decrease anxiety and undesirable behaviors related to a sheltered environment and should be tested in a standard veterinary clinic environment.
... Bradshaw, 1991;Petry et al., 2014;Thombre, 2004). In addition, food is a potent reinforcer for most domestic dogs and has been found to be preferred to petting or vocal praise in operant situations (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014;Fukuzawa and Hayashi, 2013), with a recent survey indicating that more than 75% of dog owners used food "sometimes", "often" or "very often" for training their dogs (Arhant et al., 2010). Nonetheless, dogs' preferences and reinforcer effectiveness are often assumed without having been scientifically investigated (but see Vicars et al., 2014). ...
Article
When determining an animal’s food preference based on comparative consumption, a major problem is the potential for individuals to over-eat, rendering subjects unavailable for subsequent tests as well as exposing them to potentially adverse health implications. Here, we explored alternative, simple and quick ways of assessing food preference that involved only minimal training and avoided satiation. In Study 1, we investigated whether behaviour directed towards inaccessible food predicted consummatory choice. Following a prime with small quantities of two types of food of putatively different quality, 18 pet dogs were concurrently presented with the same two food types in a manner that they could see and smell, but not physically access. Time spent investigating the two inaccessible food types was measured. Subsequently, the dogs were given the opportunity to consume the same two food types but this time in a restricted-intake consummatory test: two puzzle feeders were presented simultaneously, each containing 18 pieces of one of the two food types. The proportion of food types making up the first 18 pieces consumed was recorded. Subjects showed a highly significant preference for the food type predicted to be of higher value in both the non-consummatory and the consummatory test. Moreover the proportion of time spent investigating the two food types in the non-consummatory test was very similar to the proportion of the two food types consumed from the puzzle feeders, demonstrating validity of both test methods. There are, however, some limitations to the consummatory test, in particular that it can only be valid if the two food types to be compared are of similar ease to extract from the boards. To assess the generalizability of the non-consummatory food preference test, in Study 2 we investigated test-retest reliability in 20 dogs, as well as consistency of preferences across populations by comparing 20 owned pet dogs and 25 dogs housed in rescue shelters. Findings were consistent across repetitions of the test as well as across the two test populations. Thus, relative food preference could be confidently and reliably inferred from behaviour during a non-consummatory exposure. The ease and speed of use, the lack of training required and the avoidance of satiation make this an ideal test for determining food preference.
... Therefore, the occurrence of pawing and jumping may indicate definite signs of positive affect, whereas the absence of these behaviors do not necessarily indicate an absence of a positive emotional state. Indeed, it has been reported that dogs will favor food rewards over petting (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). Given the frequent use of food rewards in the analyzed videos (Table 2), it may be that affiliative contact is simply less salient to dogs in a training context when food is available. ...
Article
Obedience in dogs may have implications for animal welfare and the dog-human relationship. This study used event and time-based lag sequential analyses to examine the quality of dogmanship in videos of humans training dogs on a public video-sharing network. Lag sequential analysis was used to assess the responses that occur after a specific behavior for various time periods (or lag periods). Dogmanship is reflected in the timeliness of rewards and the ability to acquire and retain a dogs’ attention when handling or training them. Chi-square tests and adjusted residuals of both human-dog and dog-human interactions revealed several behaviors that assess human and dog attentional focus. Humans providing food rewards to their dogs showed strong positive linkage with dogs gazing away from humans for each time lag period. Conversely, the behaviors that were positively associated with dogs gazing at humans (notably humans gazing at dogs and non-speech vocalizations) were time dependent and showed significant linkage at lag 1 (i.e., 1 second after the initial behavior). This aligns with the importance of pitch to dogmanship and provides some evidence for reciprocal attention in the dog-human dyad. These results highlight the importance of timing of rewards as well as attention gaining mechanisms and awareness of dog attentional state to dog-human dyadic functionality (or performance). This information has implications for dog-human interactions in an obedience setting but also underlines the possibility that dogs that are perceived as difficult to train may be in the hands of people who lack the timing and awareness that characterize good dogmanship. Dog welfare is likely to be enhanced when the subtleties of dogmanship are better appreciated and those aspects of dogmanship that can be trained are.
... Therefore, the occurrence of pawing and jumping may indicate definite signs of positive affect, whereas the absence of these behaviors do not necessarily indicate an absence of a positive emotional state. Indeed, it has been reported that dogs will favor food rewards over petting (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). Given the frequent use of food rewards in the analyzed videos (Table 2), it may be that affiliative contact is simply less salient to dogs in a training context when food is available. ...
Article
Obedience in dogs may have implications for animal welfare and the dog-human relationship. This study used event and time-based lag sequential analyses to examine the quality of dogmanship in videos of humans training dogs on a public video sharing network. Lag sequential analysis was used to assess the responses that occur after a specific behavior for various periods (or lag periods). Dogmanship is reflected in the timeliness of rewards and the ability to acquire and retain a dogs’ attention when handling or training them. Chi-square tests and adjusted residuals of both human-dog and dog-human interactions revealed several behaviors that assess human and dog attentional focus. Humans providing food rewards to their dogs showed strong positive linkage with dogs gazing away from humans for each time lag period. Conversely, the behaviors that were positively associated with dogs gazing at humans (notably humans gazing at dogs and nonspeech vocalizations) were time dependent and showed significant linkage at lag 1 (i.e., 1 second after the initial behavior). This aligns with the importance of pitch to dogmanship and provides some evidence for reciprocal attention in the dog-human dyad. These results highlight the importance of timing of rewards as well as attention gaining mechanisms and awareness of dog attentional state to dog-human dyadic functionality (or performance). This information has not only implications for dog-human interactions in an obedience setting but also underlines the possibility that dogs that are perceived as difficult to train may be in the hands of people who lack the timing and awareness that characterize good dogmanship. Encouraging individuals to appreciate the subtleties of dogmanship and improve their own ability is likely to enhance dog welfare.
... Using a modified Strange Situation Test, dogs showed attachment to their owners similar to infants to parents (Topál, Miklósi, Csányi, & Dóka, 1998). Dogs also showed more social approach behaviors when owners, rather than strangers, provided particular interactions (Kuhne, Hößler, & Struwe, 2012) and were more likely to opt for petting over food when owners, rather than strangers, provided petting (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014). ...
Article
Research on owner-dog relationships suggests that they have remarkable features, paralleling those of infant to parents. In this study, we investigated whether, after being separated, access to the owner would function as a reinforcer for domestic dog behavior. We then conducted a functional analysis to determine the specific functional reinforcer (e.g., owner access, attention). Our results demonstrate that owner access can function as a reinforcer. This has implications for understanding the owner-dog relationship and using owner access as a training tool.
... Feuerbacher and Wynne (2012) discussed the possibility that only social interaction from conspecifics could have reward efficacy, in reference to the horse example (Søndergaard, Jensen, &Nicol, 2011), andFeh andde Mazieres (1993) also suggested that wither grooming from conspecifics reduced heart rate in horses. Relatedly, Feuerbacher and Wynne (2014) revealed that relationship of those who provided the social scratching (owner of the dog or stranger) had some effect on the efficacy of social reinforcement. These findings seem to imply that the familiarity of the agent providing social interaction is important for its efficacy. ...
Article
Full-text available
From the perspective of animal welfare, positive reinforcement should be used in animal training situations, such as an equestrian event. To assess the reinforcement properties of patting the neck of horses, a simple instrumental conditioning test was administered. Three horses were required to press a button with their nose for a food pellet and patting. ABA reversal design was administered to assess the relative reinforcement properties of patting to food reinforcement; and, the reinforcement schedule for the food reinforcer was gradually changed from the continuous reinforcement (CRF) to a fixed ratio (FR) 5. All subjects consistently showed a low level of response for a patting reinforcer, suggesting that reinforcement effect of neck patting may be trivial, if any.
... A study by Feuerbacher and Wynne (2012) concluded there was no effect of a brief social reward on pet and shelter dogs as compared with a food reward, but contextual differences might play a determining role in the case of free-ranging dogs. Another study showed a tendency for pet dogs to prefer food to petting, but petting seemed to be important when it was compared with vocal praise (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). Hence, without considering the effect of different environmental conditions and life experiences, direct comparison of outcomes from pet dogs with free-ranging dogs would not be valid. ...
Article
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Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the first species to have been domesticated, and unlike other domesticated species, they have developed a special bonding with their owners. The ability to respond to human gestures and language, and the hypersocial behaviours of dogs are considered key factors that have led them to become man's best friend. Free-ranging dogs provide an excellent model system for understanding the dog-human relationship in various social contexts. In India, free-ranging dogs occur in all possible human habitations. They scavenge among garbage, beg for food from humans, give birth in dens close to human habitations, and establish social bonds with people. However, there is ample dog-human conflict on streets, leading to morbidity and mortality of dogs. Hence the ability to assess an unfamiliar human before establishing physical contact could be adaptive for dogs especially in the urban environment. We tested a total of 103 adult dogs to investigate their response to immediate social and long-term food and social rewards. The dogs were provided a choice of obtaining a food either from experimenter's hand or the ground. The dogs avoided making physical contact with the unfamiliar human. While immediate social reward was not effective in changing this response, the long-term test showed a strong effect of social contact. Our results revealed that these dogs tend to build trust based on affection, and not food. The study provides significant insights into the dynamics of dog-human interactions on the streets and subsequent changes in behaviours of dogs through the process of learning.
... The interactions that produce the proposed conditioning to specific humans and the unique social relationship between dogs and family members or other close human friends have not been fully elucidated. However, research into preferences for and reinforcer effectiveness of different social interactions suggest that petting and food delivery are likely candidates, as both are preferred activities (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014;, food is an effective reinforcer (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2012), and petting is also a reinforcer (McIntire & Colley, 1967; but see Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2012) but might require specific environmental conditions to function as such (Feuerbacher, unpublished data). Additionally, there is evidence that petting is an unconditioned stimulus for dogs (Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2015;Gantt, Newton, Royer, & Stephens, 1966;McIntire & Colley, 1967), meaning that no conditioning is necessary for dogs to perceive petting as pleasurable. ...
Chapter
Research in the cognitive abilities of animals spans a vast array of species from invertebrates to primates, as well as cognitive domains, including social cognition, object permanence, fairness, and cognitive biases. Whereas ultimate causes are often explored and investigated in detail, proximate causes, such as learning effects, are often neglected in comparative cognition research. In this chapter we explore proximate mechanisms that unite these various cognitive abilities. This approach does not seek to reduce the value of cognitive research, but instead, encourages a more holistic, parsimonious, rigorous, and richer understanding of why and how animals behave. As a case study, we will examine recent research on cognitive abilities of the domestic dog, analyzing an array of cognitive domains for mechanisms that unite them. For example, we will describe proximate mechanisms that may be involved in recent intriguing findings in dog cognition research, including that dogs display fairness, guilt, optimism, recognize human emotion, eavesdrop, and are able to take another’s perspective. We will then bring research from various fields, such as neuroscience and learning psychology, to uncover the proximate mechanisms that underlie these complex cognitive abilities.
... Several studies have also demonstrated beneficial physiological and behavioral effects of these interactions for both species (McCardle, Mccune, Griffin, & Maholmes, 2010;Odendaal & Meintjes, 2003). In addition, Feuerbacher and Wynne (2014) showed that human petting can be an important reinforcer for dogs in social contexts. ...
Article
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Sociability, defined as the tendency to approach and interact with unfamiliar people, has been found to modulate some communicative responses in domestic dogs, including gaze behavior toward the human face. The objective of this study was to compare sociability and gaze behavior in pet domestic dogs and in human-socialized captive wolves in order to identify the relative influence of domestication and learning in the development of the dog–human bond. In Experiment 1, we assessed the approach behavior and social tendencies of dogs and wolves to a familiar and an unfamiliar person. In Experiment 2, we compared the animal's duration of gaze toward a person's face in the presence of food, which the animals could see but not access. Dogs showed higher levels of interspecific sociability than wolves in all conditions, including those where attention was unavailable. In addition, dogs gazed longer at the person's face than wolves in the presence of out-of-reach food. The potential contributions of domestication, associative learning, and experiences during ontogeny to prosocial behavior toward humans are discussed.
... A few studies have established that most dogs appear to prefer food rewards to praise or petting [39][40][41] and, comparing these three reward types, food has been shown to reduce the number of sessions required to learn the response to a verbal command in early but not in later stages of training 40 . Nonetheless, how to use this reward type most effectively in training has rarely been investigated (but see [42][43][44] ). ...
Article
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Recently, there has been a move towards positive reinforcement using food rewards in animal training. By definition, rewards function as reinforcers if they increase or maintain the frequency of behaviour that they follow. However, in operant conditioning tasks animals frequently show systematic changes in performance - in particular a reduction in responding over time. One suggested strategy to avoid such performance decrements is to provide a variety of food rewards, rather than the same food reward in all trials. The enhancement of appetitive behaviour and consumption by reward variation is referred to as 'variety effect'. We investigated whether dogs preferred a variable or a constant food reward in a concurrent two-choice test. Of 16 dogs, six subjects showed a significant preference for the varied food reward and six for the constant food reward, while four dogs exhibited no significant preference for either option. At the group level, there was a significant effect of block: preference for the varied food reward increased across six blocks of ten trials each. Thus, although some individuals may prefer a single, favourite food reward in the short term, introducing variation in reward types may maintain dogs' motivation in operant tasks over a longer time period.
... In terms of measuring preference, dog social behaviors are highly susceptible to prior patterns of food reinforcement (Bentosela et al., 2008; Elgier et al. 2009), and dogs frequently treat interaction with their owner as an avenue to acquire food (Cook, Arter & Jacobs, 2014), even suppressing interest in food under communicative situations (Pongracz et al., 2013). In direct tests of behavioral preference, some dogs select their owners and others food (Gacsi et al., 2005; Topal et al., 2005; Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014; Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2015) – but the behavior appears to be contingent on testing method, socialization history, reinforcement history and potentially many other factors including attention, stimulus salience, and satiety. Further, while social reinforcement is a commonly used tool in dog training (Hiby, Rooney & Bradshaw, 2004), and many trainers believe it to be effective, it is quite difficult to experimentally isolate social and food reward in a training paradigm to measure their relative contribution to learning. ...
Article
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Dogs are hypersocial with humans, and their integration into human social ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding. However, the proximal neural mechanisms driving dog-human social interaction are unknown. We used fMRI in 15 awake dogs to probe the neural basis for their preferences for social interaction and food reward. In a first experiment, we used the ventral caudate as a measure of intrinsic reward value and compared activation to conditioned stimuli that predicted food, praise, or nothing. Relative to the control stimulus, the caudate was significantly more active to the reward-predicting stimuli and showed roughly equal or greater activation to praise versus food in 13 of 15 dogs. To confirm that these differences were driven by the intrinsic value of social praise, we performed a second imaging experiment in which the praise was withheld on a subset of trials. The difference in caudate activation to the receipt of praise, relative to its withholding, was strongly correlated with the differential activation to the conditioned stimuli in the first experiment. In a third experiment, we performed an out-of-scanner choice task in which the dog repeatedly selected food or owner in a Y-maze. The relative caudate activation to food- and praise-predicting stimuli in Experiment 1 was a strong predictor of each dog’s sequence of choices in the Y-maze. Analogous to similar neuroimaging studies of individual differences in human social reward, our findings demonstrate a neural mechanism for preference in domestic dogs that is stable within, but variable between, individuals. Moreover, the individual differences in the caudate responses indicate the potentially higher value of social than food reward for some dogs and may help to explain the apparent efficacy of social interaction in dog training.
... There is currently no study investigating whether dogs respond negatively to inequity in non-food contexts. This would be worthwhile to investigate not only due to its potential relevance to cooperation in free-ranging dogs but also due to its potential relevance for interactions between dogs and humans; dogs may, for example, also value social rewards such as petting or human attention (see Bhattacharjee, Sau, Das, & Bhadra, 2017;Cook, Prichard, Spivak, & Berns, 2016;Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014). Interestingly, aversion to an inequitable distribution of food rewards has been demonstrated in other species that do not cooperate in the domain of food (for example, see Massen et al., 2012), suggesting that inequity aversion may be a higher order or domain-general capacity that can be applied to different cooperative contexts. ...
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The study of inequity aversion in animals debuted with a report of the behaviour in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). This report generated many debates following a number of criticisms. Ultimately, however, the finding stimulated widespread interest, and multiple studies have since attempted to demonstrate inequity aversion in various other non-human animal species, with many positive results in addition to many studies in which no response to inequity was found. Domestic dogs represent an interesting case as, unlike many primates, they do not respond negatively to inequity in reward quality but do, however, respond negatively to being unrewarded in the presence of a rewarded partner. Numerous studies have been published on inequity aversion in dogs in recent years. Combining three tasks and seven peer-reviewed publications, over 140 individual dogs have been tested in inequity experiments. Consequently, dogs are one of the best studied species in this field and could offer insights into inequity aversion in other non-human animal species. In this review, we summarise and critically evaluate the current evidence for inequity aversion in dogs. Additionally, we provide a comprehensive discussion of two understudied aspects of inequity aversion, the underlying mechanisms and the ultimate function, drawing on the latest findings on these topics in dogs while also placing these developments in the context of what is known, or thought to be the case, in other non-human animal species. Finally, we highlight gaps in our understanding of inequity aversion in dogs and thereby identify potential avenues for future research in this area.
... Rescuing an owner may be a highly rewarding action for dogs. Feuerbacher and Wynne [43] demonstrated that food is a salient reward for dogs, even more so than vocal praise or petting. In the present study, all dogs retrieved treats immediately in both pre-test demonstrations further indicating that these treats served as salient rewards. ...
Article
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Domestic dogs have assisted humans for millennia. However, the extent to which these helpful behaviors are prosocially motivated remains unclear. To assess the propensity of pet dogs to actively rescue distressed humans without explicit training, this study tested whether sixty pet dogs would release their seemingly trapped owners from a large box. To examine the causal mechanisms that shaped this behavior, the readiness of each dog to open the box was tested in three conditions: 1) the owner sat in the box and called for help (distress test), 2) an experimenter placed high-value food rewards in the box (food test), and 3) the owner sat in the box and calmly read aloud (reading test). Dogs were as likely to release their distressed owner as to retrieve treats from inside the box, indicating that rescuing an owner may be a highly rewarding action for dogs. After accounting for opening ability, dogs released the owner more often when the owner called for help than when the owner read aloud calmly. In addition, opening latencies decreased with test number in the distress test but not the reading test. Thus, rescuing the owner could not be attributed solely to social facilitation, stimulus enhancement, or social contact-seeking behavior. Dogs displayed more stress behaviors in the distress test than in the reading test, and stress scores decreased with test number in the reading test but not in the distress test. This evidence of emotional contagion supports the hypothesis that rescuing the distressed owner was an empathetically-motivated prosocial behavior. Success in the food task and previous (in-home) experience opening objects were both strong predictors of releasing the owner. Thus, prosocial behavior tests for dogs should control for physical ability and previous experience.
... The overall longer acceptance of social contact by free-ranging dogs compared to pet dogs tested in the dog areas might be due to the former's greater desire for contact potentially driven by the free ranging-dogs' lack of human social contact, as has been already suggested for shelter dogs. For example, in a comparative concurrent choice study, shelter dogs stood out as a unique group for their high level of preference for petting (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014); they also rapidly formed attachment bonds with a human after only a few social interactions with them (Gácsi et al., 2001) and were shown to remain in proximity with an unknown human for longer than pet dogs (Barrera et al., 2010). It is moreover possible that freeranging dogs might have a more generalized social response than pet dogs toward humans. ...
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The results of current wolf-dog studies on human-directed behaviors seem to suggest that domestication has acted on dogs’ general attitudes and not on specific socio-cognitive skills. A recent hypothesis suggests that domestication may have increased dogs’ overall sociability (hypersociability hypothesis). The aim of the present study was to test one aspect of the hypersociability hypothesis, whereby dogs should be more interested in social human contact compared to wolves, and to investigate the relative roles of both domestication and experience on the value that dogs attribute to human social contact. We compared equally raised wolves and dogs kept at the Wolf Science Center (WSCw, WSCd) but also dogs with different human socialization experiences i.e., pet dogs and free-ranging dogs. We presented subjects with a simple test, divided in two phases: in the Pre-test phase animals were exposed to two people in succession. One person invited the animal for a social/cuddle session (contact provider) and the other fed the animal (food provider). In the Test phase, animals could choose which of the two persons to approach, when both stood in a neutral posture. We directly compared WSCd with WSCw and free-ranging dogs with pet dogs. We found that in the Pre-test, WSCd and free-ranging dogs spent more time with the contact provider than WSCw and pet dogs, respectively. The results regarding the free-ranging dog and pet dog comparison were surprising, hence we conducted a follow-up testing pet dogs in a familiar, distraction-free area. Free-ranging dogs and this group of pet dogs did not differ in the time spent cuddling. In the test phase, WSCd were more likely than WSCw to approach the two experimenters. However, neither for the WSCd-WSCw comparison nor for the free-ranging dogs-pet dogs comparison, we could find a clear preference for one person over the other. Our findings support the idea that domestication has affected dogs’ behavior in terms of their overall interest in being in proximity with a human partner also in case of dogs with a relatively sparse socialization experience (free-ranging dogs). However, it remains unclear what the driving motivation to interact with the human may be.
... While we identified conditioned reinforcement (i.e., clicker training) as an effective approach to change animal behavior, many of the variables that seem to affect its effectiveness could not be unambiguously retrieved from the eligible studies (e.g., contiguity and contingency). Hence, we identified several potential avenues for future research, such as systematically manipulating (a) time intervals or delays between response and the onset of the conditioned reinforcer or the end of the conditioned reinforcer and the delivery of the unconditioned stimulus, (b) type of conditioned reinforcers other than clickers and spoken words (e.g., whistles or beeps), and (c) types of unconditioned reinforcers or back-up reinforcers presented after the delivery of the conditioned reinforcer (e.g., different food items, play, or tactile interaction based on preference assessments [120,121]). Future research efforts could also focus on the replication of studies across different species (e.g., companion pigs or rodents) and settings (e.g., enclosures or domestic homes). ...
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A conditioned reinforcer is a stimulus that acquired its effectiveness to increase and maintain a target behavior on the basis of the individual's history-e.g., pairings with other reinforcers. This systematic review synthesized findings on conditioned reinforcement in the applied animal training field. Thirty-four studies were included in the review and six studies were eligible for a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions that implemented conditioned reinforcement (e.g., clicks, spoken word, or whistles paired with food). The majority of studies investigated conditioned reinforcement with dogs (47%, n = 16) and horses (30%, n = 10) implementing click-food pairings. All other species (cats, cattle, fish, goats, and monkeys) were equally distributed across types of conditioned (e.g., clicker or spoken word) and unconditioned reinforcers (e.g., food, water, or tactile). A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of conditioned reinforcement in behavioral interventions found a medium summary effect size (Tau-U 0.77; CI 95% = [0.53, 0.89]), when comparing baseline, where no training was done, and treatment levels. Moderators of conditioned reinforcement effectiveness were species (e.g., horses) and research design (e.g., multiple-baseline designs). The small number of intervention-focused studies available limits the present findings and highlights the need for more systematic research into the effectiveness of conditioned reinforcement across species.
... A study by Feuerbacher and Wynne (2012) concluded there was no effect of a brief social reward on pet and shelter dogs as compared with a food reward, but contextual differences might play a determining role in the case of free-ranging dogs. Another study showed a tendency for pet dogs to prefer food to petting, but petting seemed to be important when it was compared with vocal praise (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). Hence, without considering the effect of different environmental conditions and life experiences, direct comparison of outcomes from pet dogs with free-ranging dogs would not be valid. ...
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Dogs ( Canis lupus familiaris ) are the first species to have been domesticated, and unlike other domesticated species, they have developed a special bonding with their owners. The ability to respond to human gestures and language is a key factor in the socio-cognitive abilities of dogs that have made them our best friend. Free-ranging dogs provide an excellent model system for understanding the dog domestication process. In India, free-ranging dogs occupy every possible human habitation, and interact with humans regularly. They scavenge among garbage, beg for food from humans, give birth in dens close to human habitations, and establish social bonds with people. However, there is ample dog-human conflict on the streets, leading to morbidity and mortality. Hence the ability to assess an unfamiliar human before establishing physical contact could be adaptive for dogs especially in the urban environment. We tested a total of 103 adult free-ranging dogs to investigate their response to immediate and long-term food and social rewards. The dogs were provided a choice of obtaining a food reward either from the hand or the ground. The dogs avoided making physical contact with the unfamiliar human. While immediate rewards were not effective in changing this response, the long-term test showed a strong effect of the social reward on the response of dogs. Our results revealed that dogs tend to build trust based on affection, and not food rewards. This study provides significant insights into nuances of the dynamics that could have paved the path to dog domestication.
... In terms of measuring preference, dog social behaviors are highly susceptible to prior patterns of food reinforcement (Bentosela et al., 2008;Elgier et al. 2009), and dogs frequently treat interaction with their owner as an avenue to acquire food (Cook, Arter & Jacobs, 2014), even suppressing interest in food under communicative situations (Pongracz et al., 2013). In direct tests of behavioral preference, some dogs select their owners and others food (Gacsi et al., 2005;Topal et al., 2005;Feuerbacher & Wynne, 2014; certified by peer review) is the author/funder. All rights reserved. ...
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Dogs are hypersocial with humans, and their integration into human social ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding. However, the proximal neural mechanisms driving dog-human social interaction are unknown. We used fMRI in 15 awake dogs to probe the neural basis for their preferences for social interaction and food reward. In a first experiment, we used the ventral caudate as a measure of intrinsic reward value and compared activation to conditioned stimuli that predicted food, praise, or nothing. Relative to the control stimulus, the caudate was significantly more active to the reward-predicting stimuli and showed roughly equal or greater activation to praise versus food in 13 of 15 dogs. To confirm that these differences were driven by the intrinsic value of social praise, we performed a second imaging experiment in which the praise was withheld on a subset of trials. The difference in caudate activation to the receipt of praise, relative to its withholding, was strongly correlated with the differential activation to the conditioned stimuli in the first experiment. In a third experiment, we performed an out-of-scanner choice task in which the dog repeatedly selected food or owner in a Y-maze. The relative caudate activation to food-and praise-predicting stimuli in Experiment 1 was a strong predictor of each dog’s sequence of choices in the Y-maze. Analogous to similar neuroimaging studies of individual differences in human social reward, our findings demonstrate a neural mechanism for preference in domestic dogs that is stable within, but variable between, individuals. Moreover, the individual differences in the caudate responses indicate the potentially higher value of social than food reward for some dogs and may help to explain the apparent efficacy of social interaction in dog training.
... Dogs are powerfully rewarded by social contact with familiar humans (Fonberg et al., 1981; although see Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014), as attested to by the use of play between dog and handler as the main reward in the training of working dogs (e.g. Svartberg, 2006), including detection ("sniffer") dogs (Rooney et al., 2004), guide dogs for blind people (Naderi et al., 2001) and search and rescue dogs (Mariti et al., 2013). ...
... Testing dogs from animal shelters (i.e. subjects deprived of human social contact) may also be a viable option, although in case of shelter dogs, probably due to their deprivation and the lack of an attachment figure might make human interactions from anyone reinforcing (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014). ...
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It is increasingly assumed that domestication has equipped dogs with unique socio-cognitive skills, which raises the possibility of intriguing parallels between the social-motivational systems of the two species. However, the positive incentive value of human facial stimuli is a largely unexplored area. Here we investigated whether the owner’s face serves as a social reinforcer. In a two-way choice task N=39 dogs were presented with a short video about their owners’ head showing the face (Facing Owner- FO) vs. the back of the head (Non-facing Owner - NFO). Despite both locations containing equal food reward, dogs approached the container associated with FO more frequently (p < .001) and this was not affected by side, trial order and choice latency. However, the considerable inter-individual differences in dogs’ task performance suggest that the added social component required special social skills which need to be further explored.
... There is evidence that other positive rewards, as for instance social interactions like petting, are less effective than food reward (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2012;Fukuzawa and Hayashi, 2013). However, the possible advantage of the group receiving petting is limited by contextual and familiarity factors: to make an example, if the dog is not familiar with the trainer, the interaction will act as a reward with less efficacy than a treat (Feuerbacher and Wynne, 2014;Miklósi, 2015). Another social reward is also the possibility to let the dog do something it likes to do (as playing or meeting other dogs), an alternative reinforcer that paves the way to further investigations in this field. ...
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(from the book) summarize several years of research with rhesus monkeys and surrogate mothers / [demonstrate] that characteristics of mothers other than food resources are important for attachment / when presented with a wire surrogate where milk could be obtained and with a terry cloth mother without milk, infants spent most of their time with the terry cloth surrogate / when the infants were placed in a novel environment or threatened with a strange object, these monkeys appeared to derive comfort from the cloth surrogate / concluded that this effect could not be explained by secondary reinforcement from feeding and that other biological drives must make contact comfort reinforcing
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A decade of research on domestic dogs' responsiveness to human actions has led some to believe that all members of the species Canis familiaris possess a human-like social cognition not shared by their nondomesticated relatives. However, comparative studies on diverse populations of domestic dog are lacking, making species-wide generalizations premature. In this study we present the performance of one under-represented population, stray dogs living in shelters, on a human-guided object-choice task. Unlike pet dogs, shelter dogs universally failed to follow a momentary distal point to a target location in initial tests, although they were able to follow a simpler form of human point on the same task. Furthermore, the majority of subjects learned to follow a momentary distal point to a target when given additional training trials (experiment 2). Dogs' sensitivity to human gestures may not be entirely explained by phylogenetic variables; rather, the interactions between genetic, developmental and experiential variables must be considered.
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Biologists, breeders and trainers, and champion sled dog racers, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have more than four decades of experience with literally thousands of dogs. Offering a scientifically informed perspective on canines and their relations with humans, the Coppingers take a close look at eight different types of dogs—household, village, livestock guarding, herding, sled-pulling, pointing, retrieving, and hound. They argue that dogs did not evolve directly from wolves, nor were they trained by early humans; instead they domesticated themselves to exploit a new ecological niche: Mesolithic village dumps. Tracing the evolution of today's breeds from these village dogs, the Coppingers show how characteristic shapes and behaviors—from pointing and baying to the sleek shapes of running dogs—arise from both genetic heritage and the environments in which pups are raised. For both dogs and humans to get the most out of each other, we need to understand and adapt to the biological needs and dispositions of our canine companions, just as they have to ours.
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Publisher Summary Conjugate reinforcement has been used successfully with both normal and impaired organisms of all ages. It programs a variety of reinforcing consequences, both social and nonsocial, in a manner that simulates the natural patterns of interaction between organisms and their environments. With infants it has been particularly successful, sustaining high and stable response rates for relatively long time periods. This has made possible the use of individual baselines in addition to the use of standard control groups. It has also permitted more reliable observations of the short- and long-term influences of the independent variables than have been possible with either episodic schedules or techniques, which do not rely on motivated behavior. Further, the rapidity with which even the youngest infants acquire conjugately reinforced responses has eliminated the necessity for lengthy shaping or training periods. A major requirement of the free-operant method is that the response be a recurrent behavior, which can be produced over long periods without fatigue. The main limitation that the conjugate paradigm imposes upon the selection of responses and reinforcers is that they be sufficiently variable to permit the infant to discover the proportionality relationship between them.
The role of the experimenter in the behavioral study, although recognized by Darwin, Pavlov, psychiatrists and others, has not been adequately evaluated in terms of the quantitative measures of the CR. Our study in this paper concerns especially the cardiac changes induced by “Person” in normal and pathological animals—monkey, dog, cat, opossum, guinea pig and rabbit. Owing to the greater sensitivity of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, these are more reliable and delicate measures than the usual somatic muscular ones. The Person can be used as an unconditional stimulus on the basis of which conditional reflexes are formed. Person has an especially pronounced effect on neurotic animals—shown often in a more pronounced way in the cardiorespiratory responses than in the more superficial behavioral ones. This Effect of Person may provide insights into the production of neurosis as well as some of the beneficial effects of therapy, e.g., the personal factor of the therapist.
Article
In order to isolate the effectiveness of some components of social reinforcement given to the dog by the human, precise measurements were recorded of six dogs' performance in a disciplined training program. Both verbal praise and petting were used as rewards. When petting was discontinued, verbal praise alone was not sufficient to maintain performance. However, performance was re-established when petting was again added in a later phase of the experiment. The authors conclude that the evidence is supportive of the thesis that some kinds of tactile stimulation are of a primary reinforcement nature to the dog.
Article
The motivational bases of the social reinforcement in human-dog relations were examined. In experiment I, performed on seven dogs, it was found that dogs were able to learn and sustain the natural responses of sitting, paw extension, and lying prostrate to conditional stimuli in the form of vocal commands reinforced only by social rewards given by the experimenter, such as petting and vocal encouragement. Overtraining did not produce deterioration of performance but, on the contrary, the continual decrease of latencies. It was evidenced that tactile stimulation plays an important role in social reward. In experiment II, instrumental responses to the auditory conditional stimuli were elaborated in two groups of dogs. The first group (nine dogs) was reinforced by food, and the second group (eight dogs) was reinforced exclusively by petting. A similar course of learning and level of performance during overtraining sessions in both groups indicated that petting serves as a good reinforcement, with rewarding value comparable to that of food reinforcement. It is suggested that a strong rewarding effect of pleasurable sensory stimuli occurs in the formation of the bond between dog and human and in the learning of different tasks.
Article
Few physiological parameters for positive human-companion animal contact have been identified and those that are established have all been in humans. The implication is that if the physiological reactions are mutual, dogs would experience the same psychological benefits from these neurophysiological changes as humans. Therefore, we have determined the role of certain neurochemicals during affiliation behaviour on an interspecies basis. Our results indicate that concentrations of beta-endorphin, oxytocin, prolactin, beta-phenylethylamine, and dopamine increased in both species after positive interspecies interaction, while that of cortisol decreased in the humans only. Indicators of mutual physiological changes during positive interaction between dog lovers and dogs may contribute to a better understanding of the human-animal bond in veterinary practice.
Article
Method used, variables observed, and results are outlined and discussed. Adult approval was found to have definite reinforcing value; the effectiveness may be enhanced by an operation of deprivation. 22 references.
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60 macaque monkeys were separated from their mothers 6-12 hours after birth. Inanimate mother surrogates, essentially wood cylinders covered with terry cloth or hardware cloth cylinder, were constructed. Infant monkeys lived with mother surrogates for a minimum of 165 days and were tested in a variety of situations. Experimental analysis "demonstrates the overwhelming importance of the variable of soft body contact that characterized the cloth mother, and this held true for the appearance, development, and maintenance of the infant-surrogate-mother tie. The results also indicate that without the factor of contact comfort, only a weak attachment, if any, is formed. Finally… nursing or feeding played either no role or a subordinate role in the development of affection as measured by contact time, responsiveness to fear, responsiveness to strangeness, and motivation to seek and see." The affectional responses of monkeys to mother surrogates appear to be strong and stable. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Groups of mongrel infant dogs were either hand fed or fed by wire or cloth surrogate mothers. Outside of the feeding situation, puppies of all groups spent more time with the cloth than with the wire mothers. In addition, Ss with cloth mothers spent more time with the mothers if they were fed by the mothers than if they were hand fed. From Psyc Abstracts 36:01:1EF02I.
Attachment. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books An exploratory study on the acquisition of dependency behavior in puppies
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Neurophysiologi-cal correlates of affiliative behavior between humans and dogs The effects of social training and other factors on adoption success of shelter dogs The economics of infancy: a review of conjugate reinforcement
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An exploratory study on the acquisition of dependency behavior in puppies
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Choice as time allocation
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