Dog and pig

Dogs vs pigs: only dogs try to direct humans' attention to interesting objects

Dogs and pigs both have a fairly complex social system and can be raised in a domestic setting in similar ways. But dogs are more adept at getting humans’ help to solve a task, a new study shows.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary wanted to find out whether companion pigs and dogs would show their owners the location of a food reward that was out of their reach (but reachable for their owner).

If only the owner was in the room with them, the pigs paid their owner as much attention as dogs did. However, when the reward was also present only dogs tried to direct the attention of the owner to the reward location.

“Pigs, in contrast, just tried to find the way to take it themselves,” explained study co-author Attila Andics, principal investigator of the Neuroethology of Communication Lab at the university’s Department of Ethology.

This finding suggests that directing humans’ attention to interesting locations may not be something that every domestic animal can do, the researchers said in a paper published in Scientific Reports.

“We suggest that pigs might lack important characteristics that are crucial for the emergence of this sort of communication,” said study co-author Paula Pérez Fraga, PhD student of the Neuroethology of Communication Lab. “Although we know that dogs are especially skilful in communicating with humans, other animals like horses, cats, and even kangaroos can referentially communicate with us, and all of them rely heavily upon visual communication when interacting with their mates. Pigs, on the contrary, don’t.”

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