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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


28 November 2016

Do Dogs Synchronize Their Behavior with People? Researcher Seeks Participation in Online Study

Please welcome today's guest contributor, Charlotte Duranton, a PhD student at the University Aix-Marseille – Laboratory of Cognitive Psychology. For this online study, Charlotte is seeking participants who own dogs as well as those who do not. Please share the study far and wide!

Our dogs are not only our best friends, they are even our shadows. When you are tired and just want to hang out at home, many dogs will lay down and sleep at your feet. And when you are full of energy and ready to go out, your companion dog is ready to go, waiting to get out, and full of enthusiasm. In both, the dog is a reflection of your own state.

While these behaviors are typically accepted by the general public, they lack extensive scientific study. This is the topic I am investigating for my PhD project: Do dogs display behavioral synchronization with their humans?

Non-conscious synchronized behaviors are found in various species and among all taxa of live beings. Synchronization is observed within intraspecific groups and dyads and has various adaptive values. Being synchronized with others helps: i. decrease the pressure of predation on offspring, ii. increase the effectiveness of anti-predation strategies, and iii. increase social cohesion (see Duranton & Gaunet 2016 for a review). 

This last point is essential when thinking about dog-human groups and dyads. In humans, synchronization helps foster relationships and social bonds between individuals. The more affiliated individuals are, the more behaviorally synchronized they will be (Duranton & Gaunet, 2016).

When considering the dog-human relationship, we know that dogs are very sensitive to our body movements, and such a sensitivity is proposed to be the basis for behavioral synchronization between dogs and humans (Duranton & Gaunet, 2015). 

Social referencing is a type of behavioral synchronization that has recently been identified between dogs and their owners. When confronted with an unfamiliar stimulus, dogs looked at their owners to see their reactions, and then the dogs reacted accordingly. Dogs used their owner’s reaction as a guide when reacting to an unknown object (Merola et al., 2012) and an unknown person (Duranton et al., 2016). Movement alone was sufficient for the dogs to synchronize with the human’s reaction (Duranton et al., 2016).

The scientific question...
We now want to investigate the existence of behavioral synchrony from the dog towards the human when they are alone together without any external stimuli. Do dogs, in a quiet place, with no external events or stimuli, synchronize their behavior with the behavior of their owners?

Get involved!
Help us investigate this question by participating in our online citizen project:

Study participants will watch a few short videos and report back on what you observe. The study takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Study participants
We seek participants who own dogs as well as those who do not own dogs, so please share the study widely!

French or English, your pick!
The study is available in both French and English! 

Access the study here:

Please don't hesitate to contact me should you have any questions:

Thank you for considering contributing to this study!

Charlotte Duranton,
University Aix-Marseille – Laboratory of Cognitive Psychology – CNRS
Association AVA


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