Visual perspective taking in dogs (Canis familiaris) in the presence of barriers

J Brauer*, J Call, M Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have shown that dogs have developed a special sensitivity to the communicative signals and attentional states of humans. The aim of the current study was to further investigate what dogs know about the visual perception of humans and themselves. In the first two experiments we investigated whether dogs were sensitive to the properties of barriers as blocking the visual access of humans. We presented dogs with a situation in which a human forbade them to take a piece of food, but the type and orientation of the barrier allowed the dog to take the food undetected in some conditions. Dogs differentiated between effective and ineffective barriers, based on their orientation or the particular features of the barriers such as size or the presence of window. In the third study we investigated whether dogs know about what they themselves have seen. We presented subjects with two boxes and placed food in one of them. In the Seen condition the location of the food was shown to the dogs while in the Unseen condition dogs were prevented from seeing the destination of the food. Before selecting one of the boxes by pressing a lever, dogs had the opportunity to seek extra information regarding the contents of the boxes, which would be particularly useful in the condition in which they had not seen where the food was hidden. Dogs rarely used the opportunity to seek information about the contents of the box before making their choice in any condition. Therefore, we found no evidence suggesting that dogs have access to what they themselves have seen, which contrasts with the positive evidence about visual perspective taking in others from the first two experiments and previous studies. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-317
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • dogs
  • visual perspective taking
  • metacognition
  • SEE


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