Effect of pitch range on dogs’ response to conspecific vs. heterospecific distress cries

Root-Gutteridge, Holly, Ratcliffe, Victoria F, Neumann, Justine, Timarchi, Lucia, Yeung, Chloe, Korzeniowska, Anna T, Mathevon, Nicolas and Reby, David (2021) Effect of pitch range on dogs’ response to conspecific vs. heterospecific distress cries. Scientific Reports, 11 (1). a19723 1-10. ISSN 2045-2322

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Distress cries are emitted by many mammal species to elicit caregiving attention. Across taxa, these calls tend to share similar acoustic structures, but not necessarily frequency range, raising the question of their interspecific communicative potential. As domestic dogs are highly responsive to human emotional cues and experience stress when hearing human cries, we explore whether their responses to distress cries from human infants and puppies depend upon sharing conspecific frequency range or species-specific call characteristics. We recorded adult dogs’ responses to distress cries from puppies and human babies, emitted from a loudspeaker in a basket. The frequency of the cries was presented in both their natural range and also shifted to match the other species. Crucially, regardless of species origin, calls falling into the dog call-frequency range elicited more attention. Thus, domestic dogs’ responses depended strongly on the frequency range. Females responded both faster and more strongly than males, potentially reflecting asymmetries in parental care investment. Our results suggest that, despite domestication leading to an increased overall responsiveness to human cues, dogs still respond considerably less to calls in the natural human infant range than puppy range. Dogs appear to use a fast but inaccurate decision-making process to determine their response to distress-like vocalisations.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Acoustics, Animal Communication, Animals, Auditory Perception, Behavior, Animal, Crying, Dogs, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Sound Spectrography, Species Specificity
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2022 14:49
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2022 14:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/103833

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