Conspecific individual recognition using vocal cues has been shown in a wide range of species but there is no published evidence that dogs are able to recognize their owner based on his/her voice alone (interspecific individual recognition).
In our test, dogs had to rely on vocal cues to find their hidden owner in a two-way choice task. From behind an opaque screen, both the owner and a control person uttered neutral speech (reading sentences from a receipt) before the dogs were allowed to make their choice. Correct choices were reinforced by food and by verbal praise.
During the six-choice trials, dogs chose their owner’s voice significantly more often than the control person’s voice. There was no effect of learning throughout the trials, and dogs did not show side preference.
Thus, dogs are able to discriminate interspecific voices, suggesting that they are able to identify their owner based on vocal cues alone. This experimental design allows exploration of the role of individual acoustic parameters (such as fundamental frequency) in voice discrimination.
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