Study proves dogs recognize their owners’ faces

Selective attention to humans in companion dogs, Canis familiaris. Integration into human societies requires dogs to express adaptable social attitudes, involving high levels of attention to other individuals. In the present study, we developed a new behavioural test, to characterize selective attention towards humans. In the task, the dogs were exposed to the owner and an unfamiliar person, repeatedly entering the experimental room and leaving through different doors; at the end of the sequence the dogs were allowed to approach the doors. Attention was measured as the average length of gaze bouts and as the overall duration of visual orientation towards the

different targets. Dogs gave preferential attention to the owner, who received longer gaze bouts and greater overall attention than the stranger. The preference was confirmed by the significant proportion of dogs that directed attention to the owner’s door at the end of the task. A modified version of the task was employed to measure dogs’ attention when the person’s head was not visible. This condition caused a decrease in attention parameters towards the owner. To determine the effects of old age on attention, the two tasks were then administered to dogs aged 7 years and older. Compared to adults, aged dogs showed lower owner-directed attention when the owner was not in sight and were more likely not to move at the end of the task. The results provide the first evidence that dogs’ interspecific attention depends on the nature of the dog-human relationship, on the availability of some distinctive features of the social stimulus and on the age of the dog. Dipartimento di Scienze Sperimentali Veterinarie & Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy. Correspondence: Paolo Mongillo, Dipartimento di Scienze Sperimentali Veterinarie, Università degli Studi di Padova, Viale dell’Università, 16, 35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy. Mongillo  – History of Padua university; Along with such universities as Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge, that of Padua was one of the first to exemplify the idea of a Gymnasium Omnium Disciplinarum

– an educational model that can now be seen throughout the world. Though the university’s year of foundation is generally given as 1222, that in fact only marks the date from which there are records of a “fixed and publicly recognised university established within the city” and so the actual foundation can be dated even early, to a period when a number of professors and students had left the University of Bologna as a result of “offences to academic freedom and the failure to observe the privileges that had been guaranteed to teachers and pupils”. Such exchanges of personnel and students – together with the similarities in the Statutes of the two foundations – reveal that Padua placed a certain importance on this link with what was the oldest university in the world, against which it was however very soon setting itself up as a rival (and even centuries later that rivalry has lost none of its edge). Padua University was not founded as the result of a charter granted by pope of emperor, but as a “response to the specific social and cultural conditions that created a need for it”; and its motto of Universa Universis Patavina Libertas was well-deserved not only under the original Commune of the thirteenth century but also during the fourteenth-century rule of the Carraresi and throughout the period of Venetian rule of the city (from the 15th to the 18th century), all these different authorities guaranteeing full respect for the university’s freedoms. Sources: Animal Behaviour  & University of Padua

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