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Abstract

Presenting animals with artificial visual stimuli is a key element of many recent behavioral experiments largely because images are easier to control and manipulate than live demonstrations. Determining how animals process images is crucial for being able to correctly interpret subjects' reactions toward these stimuli. In this study, we aimed to use the framework proposed by Fagot et al. (2010) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 519 to classify how dogs perceive life-sized projected videos. First, we tested whether dogs can use pre-recorded and hence non-interactive, video footage of a human to locate a hidden reward in a three-way choice task. Secondly, we investigated whether dogs solve this task by means of referential understanding. To achieve this, we separated the location of the video projection from the location where dogs had to search for the hidden reward. Our results confirmed that dogs can reliably use pre-recorded videos of a human as a source of information when the demonstration and the hiding locations are in the same room. However, they did not find the hidden object above the chance level when the hiding locations were in a separate room. Still, further analysis found a positive connection between the attention paid to the projection and the success rate of dogs. This finding suggests that the factor limiting dogs' performance was their attention and that with further training they might be able to master tasks involving referential understanding.