Communication between domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and humans: dogs are good learners

Behav Processes. 2009 Jul;81(3):402-8. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.03.017.


Communication involves a wide range of behaviours that animals emit in their daily lives and can take place between different species, as is the case of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and humans. Dogs have shown to be successful at following human cues to solve the object choice task. The question is what are the mechanisms involved in these communicative abilities. This article presents a review of studies about the communicative capacities of domestic dogs emphasizing the ones that considered the effect of associative learning upon these skills. In addition, evidence about differences in dogs' performance in following physical or social cues is summarized and two studies where both signals compete are presented here. The obtained results suggest that the training of a colour cue reverses the dogs' preference for the social one. These results are discussed in light of the findings that gave importance to the learning effect, concluding that the dogs fundamentally follow those cues that allowed them to obtain reinforcers in their previous learning history.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Association Learning
  • Color
  • Communication*
  • Comprehension
  • Cues
  • Dogs / psychology*
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Social Perception