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Size Communication in domestic dog (Canis familiaris) growls.

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:59 authored by Anna Taylor, David Reby, Karen Mccomb
In many species, body size is a key determinant of the outcome of agonistic interactions, and receivers are expected to attend to size cues when assessing competitors' signals. Several mammal vocalizations, including domestic dog growls, encode reliable information about caller body size in the dispersion of formant frequencies. To test whether adult domestic dogs attend to formant dispersion when presented with the growls of their conspecifics, we played recordings of resynthesized growls where the size-related variation in formant frequency spacing was manipulated independently of all other parameters. Subjects from three different size groups (small, medium and large dogs) were presented with playbacks of growls where formant frequencies had been rescaled to correspond to a dog 30% smaller or 30% larger than themselves. While large dogs systematically displayed more motivation to interact when growls simulated a smaller intruder, small dogs did not respond differentially to the playback conditions. However, the small dogs responded significantly less than all other size groups to both playback conditions. Our results suggest that domestic dogs are able to perceive size-related information in growls, and more specifically that they are able to adapt their behavioural response as a function of the perceived intruder's size relative to their own.


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Animal Behaviour







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  • Psychology Publications

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