UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Can Dogs Limbo? Dogs’ Perception of Affordances for Negotiating an Opening Horowitz, Alexandra; West, Eloise; Ball, Molly; Bagwell, Blakeley


Very little research has focused on canines’ understanding of their own size, and their ability to apply this understanding to their surroundings. The current study tests domestic dogs’ judgment of their body size in relation to a changing environment in two novel experimental situations: when encountering an opening of decreasing height (Study 1) and when negotiating an opening when carrying a stick in their mouth (Study 2). We hypothesized that if dogs understand their own body size, they will accurately judge when an opening is too small for their body to fit through, showing longer latencies to approach the smaller openings and adjusting their body appropriately to get through—although this judgment may not extend to when their body size is effectively increased. In line with these hypotheses, we found that the latency for subjects to reach an aperture they could easily fit through was significantly shorter than to one which was almost too small to fit through. We also found that the order of subjects’ adjustments to negotiate an aperture was invariant across individuals, indicating that dogs’ perception of affordances to fit through an aperture is action-scaled. Preliminary results suggest that dogs’ approach behavior is different when a horizontal appendage is introduced, but that dogs were able to alter their behavior with experience. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that dogs understand their own body size and the affordances of their changing environment.

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