Affiliation, dominance and friendship among companion dogs

in Behaviour
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Dog social behaviour has been well studied, but little is known about affiliative relationships between dogs. We report a yearlong study of dominance and affiliation in 24 dogs at a dog daycare facility and provide additional details on dog relationships through long-term observations of pairs of dogs who lived together in the same household or met frequently for years. Companion dogs formed highly differentiated relationships with one another. At daycare, some dyads affiliated and displayed one-way submission (formal dominance), others affiliated without a dominance relationship (egalitarian), and the majority of dyads did not affiliate at all (agonistic or non-interactive). The dogs in household environments showed formal and egalitarian relationships, and two dyads exchanged two-way agonism without submission (unresolved). Sex influenced the types of relationships dogs formed, with mixed sex dyads more likely to affiliate and less likely to exhibit dominance than same-sex pairs. Dominance influenced the nature of affiliation in relationships; egalitarian dyads were more likely to play and showed more equitable gentle affiliation. Gentle affiliation was reciprocal in the group as a whole, but it was highly skewed in many dyads, especially those with dominance relationships. Gentle affiliation was usually, but not always, directed up the hierarchy. Certain dyads affiliated at much higher rates than others, indicating that the dogs formed friendships. Most friends were mixed sex and/or egalitarian pairs, but friendships occurred in all of the sex class/dominance combinations. Long-term observations demonstrated how dyadic relationships can change over time. Such highly differentiated relationships suggest significant social complexity in dogs.

Affiliation, dominance and friendship among companion dogs

in Behaviour



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  • View in gallery

    Scatter plot of gentle affiliative behaviours and play fighting scans.

  • View in gallery

    Histograms of play fighting and gentle affiliation: (A) Histogram of play scans per hour. (B) Histogram of gentle affiliative behaviours. Insets zoom on the tail.


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