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Biology Letters (1)
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Hasegawa, Toshikazu (2)
Konno, Akitsugu (2)
Inoue-Murayama, Miho (1)
Romero, Teresa (1)
Sueur, Cédric (1)
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Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy
In humans, the susceptibility to yawn contagion has been theoretically and empirically related to our capacity for empathy. Because of its relevance to evolutionary biology, this phenomenon has been the focus of recent investigations in non-human species. In line with the empathic hypothesis, contagious yawning has been shown to correlate with the level of social attachment in several primate species. Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) have also shown the ability to yawn contagiously. To date, however, the social modulation of dog contagious yawning has received contradictory support and alternative explanations (i.e., yawn as a mild distress response) could explain positive evidence. The present study aims to replicate contagious yawning in dogs and to discriminate between the two possible mediating mechanisms (i.e., empathic vs. distress related response). Twenty-five dogs observed familiar (dog’s owner) and unfamiliar human models (experimenter) acting out a yawn or control mouth movements. Concurrent physiological measures (heart rate) were additionally monitored for twenty-one of the subjects. The occurrence of yawn contagion was significantly higher during the yawning condition than during the control mouth movements. Furthermore, the dogs yawned more frequently when watching the familiar model than the unfamiliar one demonstrating that the contagiousness of yawning in dogs correlated with the level of emotional proximity. Moreover, subjects’ heart rate did not differ among conditions suggesting that the phenomenon of contagious yawning in dogs is unrelated to stressful events. Our findings are consistent with the view that contagious yawning is modulated by affective components of the behavior and may indicate that rudimentary forms of empathy could be present in domesticated dogs.
Androgen receptor gene polymorphisms are associated with aggression in Japanese Akita Inu
We tested for an association between variable number of tandem repeats in the canine androgen receptor (AR) gene and personality differences in Japanese Akita Inu dogs. The polymorphic trinucleotide (CAG) repeat region coding for glutamine in exon 1 of the AR gene was genotyped using genomic DNA obtained from 171 dogs. Three alleles (23, 24 and 26 repeats) were detected, and the allele frequency differed with the coat colour. We assessed the personality profiles of 100 fawn-coloured dogs (54 males and 46 females) based on a questionnaire answered by each dog's owner. The questionnaire consisted of five sub-scales (sociability, playfulness, neuroticism, aggressiveness, distractibility), and the psychometric properties were acceptable based upon internal consistency of the subscales. We found that male dogs with a short allele conferring increased AR function had higher aggressiveness scores than male dogs with longer alleles. By contrast, no evidence was found for a relationship between AR gene variants and personality in females. To our knowledge, our findings provide the first evidence of polymorphism in the AR gene being associated with canine aggression.
aggression; androgen receptor gene; dogs; gene polymorphisms; personality
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