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The complex, subtle body postures and facial expressions used by dogs for communication is sometimes contrary to the human–dog communication mainly focused on verbal and tactile signals. Human–dog interactions might lead to misunderstandings because humans perform gestures that the pet interprets as social behaviours that are inappropriately performed by the human. Therefore, the behavioural responses of dogs to tactile human–dog interactions and slight forms of restraint are the focus of this study.
Privately owned dogs (N=24) participated on this study. Each dog was exposed to nine different interactions either by a familiar or an unfamiliar person. The test sequences comprised various actions, e.g. holding the dog's paw, stroking the dog's head, each one being performed for 30s. The inter-test interval was set at 60s. The frequency and duration of the dogs’ behavioural responses were evaluated. An ANOVA was conducted after the data of behavioural responses were log transformed.
A significant influence of human–dog familiarity on behavioural responses was found for initiating redirected behaviours (F1,184=4.94, p=0.027). Likewise, there was a significant difference between the behavioural responses which were considered as appeasement gestures, both in frequency (F1,193=10.67; p=0,001) and duration (F1,184=21.85; p=0.000).
Findings suggest that the familiarity with the human handler has an effect on dogs’ appeasement gestures and redirected behaviours to tactile human–dog interactions. Additional study is needed to assess the owners’ awareness of these behaviour patterns and determine whether the dogs’ responses detected in this study are potential indicators of the human–dog relationship.