Can your dog read your mind? Understanding the causes of canine perspective taking

Monique A.R. Udell, Nicole R. Dorey, Clive D.L. Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Prior studies have documented the domestic dog's (Canis lupus familiaris) sensitivity to human attentional state, including a tendency to preferentially beg for food from attentive individuals and an ability to selectively perform forbidden behaviors when humans are not looking. Due to the success of dogs on perspective-taking tasks, some have hypothesized that domestic dogs may have theory of mind, or the ability to infer what other individuals know. Here we provide the first evidence that nondomesticated canids, grey wolves (Canis lupus), are also sensitive to human attentional state under some conditions. We also demonstrate that dogs do not display an undifferentiated sensitivity to all visual cues of attentional state. Rather, dogs are more sensitive to stimuli encountered in their home environment. Some dogs perform poorly on perspective-taking tasks. These findings have important implications for the interpretation of research designed to understand complex social cognition across species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-302
Number of pages14
JournalLearning and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Canis lupus
  • Canis lupus familiaris
  • Dog shelter
  • Dogs
  • Domestication
  • Learning
  • Perspective taking
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind
  • Wolves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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