The effectiveness of visual and auditory elements of a compound stimulus in controlling behavior in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris)

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2021, 46, pp. 87-96
Issue Date:
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This study measured the responses of dogs to signals delivered via hand and voice signals. The study sought to determine whether dogs would display differential stimulus control when switching from a compound stimulus (auditory-visual) cue to presentation of only one of its elements. Twelve dogs performed a target behavior in response to a 2-element compound stimulus composed of a hand (visual modality) signal and a voice (auditory modality) signal. The mean percent correct responses to the visual element (M = 56.5, SD = 20.74) and the auditory element (M = 67.5, SD = 21.57) were both significantly lower than the 85% correct for the compound stimulus, P < 0.017. There was also evidence of a preference for one of the elements of the compound stimulus. The mean percent correct for the more favoured element (M = 77.25, SD = 12.53) was significantly higher than for the less favoured element (M = 46.75, SD = 17.2), P < 0.001. The identity of the favoured element was not consistent across the animals with 75% preferring the auditory element and 25% the visual element. This study contributes to an understanding of factors related to the stimulus control of learned behaviors. The differential control of behavior by alternative cues has implications for the training of assistance or service and other working animals with multiple cues. The results would strongly suggest that training with a compound stimulus is not appropriate if only elements of the compound stimulus are to be subsequently used.
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