Use of human-given cues by domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and horses (Equus caballus)

Jean McKinley, Thomas D. Sambrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Citations (Scopus)


Sixteen domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and four horses (Equus caballus) were tested for their ability to use human-given manual and facial cues in an objectchoice task. Two of the four horses used touch as a cue and one horse successfully used pointing. The performance of the dogs was considerably better, with 12 subjects able to use pointing as a cue, 4 able to use head orientation and 2 able to use eye gaze alone. Group analysis showed that the dogs performed significantly better in all experimental conditions than during control trials. Dogs were able to use pointing cues even when the cuer's body was closer to the incorrect object. Working gundogs with specialised training used pointing more successfully than pet dogs and gundog breeds performed better than nongundog breeds. The results of this experiment suggest that animals' use of human given communicative signals depends on cognitive ability, the evolutionary consequences of domestication and enculturation by humans within the individual's lifetime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2000


  • Dog
  • Horse
  • Human-animal communication
  • Social cues

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