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This study aimed to investigate retrieval of hidden food as a learning- and frustration task for dogs. The longer the tasks went on, the higher the probability that the tolerance level of stress and frustration would be detected.
Sixteen dogs were tested. In the first three test elements, food was hidden inside objects (plastic cone; “Knepig”™ and “Klurig”™, wooden toys for dogs) and in the next two test elements by the experimenter’s hand or foot. Each test element was repeated five times. The main measures were the preferred strategy and latency to reach the food, as well as the duration of looking at humans, which was interpreted as initialization of communicative interaction.
The dogs used either their feet or their mouths as their preferred strategy to get the food. The latency to reach the food in the first three test elements ranged from 1 s to 3.41 min and in the last two test elements from 2 s to 3.36 min. The correlation between mean time of reaching the food and trial number was significantly negative for the test elements “plastic cone” and “hand” (Spearman: “plastic cone” p= -1.0, P<0,01; “hand” p= -0.9, P<0,05). Looking at the experimenter was observed in the first three test elements on average for 20-25% of the trial time. In case of the last two test elements, the dogs stared directly at the experimenter 15-20% of the time and performed positive affiliation behaviours towards their owners 20-25% of the time.
Attention directed by the dog at the owner reflects the tendency of dogs to look at a familiar human when they encounter difficulties in a problem-solving task. The schedule of the five experiments was considered an appropriate method for testing the tolerance level of stress and frustration of dogs in problem-solving tasks.