TitleDog-human behavioral synchronization: family dogs synchronize their behavior with child family members.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsWanser, SH, Macdonald, M, Udell, MAR
JournalAnim Cogn
Date Published01/2021

Research on dog social cognition has received widespread attention. However, the vast majority of this research has focused on dogs' relationships and responsiveness towards adult humans. While little research has considered dog-child interactions from a cognitive perspective, how dogs perceive and socially engage with children is critical to fully understand their interspecific social cognition. In several recent studies, dogs have been shown to exhibit behavioral synchrony, often associated with increased affiliation and social responsiveness, with their adult owners. In the current study, we asked if family dogs would also exhibit behavioral synchrony with child family members. Our findings demonstrated that dogs engaged in all three measured components of behavioral synchrony with their child partner-activity synchrony (p < 0.0001), proximity (p < 0.0001), and orientation (p = 0.0026)-at levels greater than would be expected by chance. The finding that family dogs synchronize their behavior with that of child family members may shed light on how dogs perceive familiar children. Aspects of pet dog responsiveness to human actions previously reported in studies with adult humans appear to generalize to cohabitant children in at least some cases. However, some differences between our study outcomes and those reported in the dog-adult human literature were also observed. Given the prevalence of families with both children and dogs, and the growing popularity of child-focused animal-assisted interventions, knowledge about how dogs respond to the behavior of human children may also help inform and improve safe and successful dog-child interactions.

Alternate JournalAnim Cogn
PubMed ID33433821
Grant ListR21HD091895 / / Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development /
HAB18-027 / / Human Animal Bond Research Institute /