Effects of different human approaches on dog’s behavior: preliminary results


  • Eva Ricci
  • Beatrice Carlone AltreMenti




The study of dogs’ responses to an approaching human plays an important role for the development of human-dog relationship.

The aim of the research was to develop a protocol for behavioral test in order to assess the behavioral responses of dogs to two different approaches performed by an unknown man.

Twenty-five dogs of different breeds or mixed-breed, 17 females and 8 males, 56.4±26.2 months old, underwent a behavioural test in which a male stranger approached the subject using two different modalities, named indirect approach (IA) and direct approach (DA).

Test were video recorded and dogs’ responses to the approaching man were analyzed in order to attribute the following scores: aggressive (=1), active avoidant (=2), passive avoidant (=3), ambivalent (=4), neutral (=5), or friendly (=6). In addition, each videotaped session was analysed with the continuous sampling method registering the duration (s) of 11 behaviours: nose licking, paw lifting, yawning, blinking, and body shaking (their duration was summed and used as a measure of dog stress); orientation toward the stranger, barking, and growling (their duration was summed and used as a measure of the attitude toward the unknown man); orientation toward the owner, approach and contact with the owner (their duration was summed and used as a measure of the attitude toward the owner). Statistical analysis was performed using Wilcoxon test (p<0.05) in order to compare responses to DA and IA and the duration of behaviours during DA and IA.

Dogs responded more friendly to IA that to DA (Z=-2.049, p=0.021). For stress signals, the time was higher for DA, respect IA, although the differences did not reach statistical significance (Z=-1.280, p=0.201). Concerning the attitude toward the stranger, significant differences between DA and IA were found (Z=2.64, p=0.008), i.e. dogs looked to the stranger, barked an growled more during DA. As regards the behaviors towards the owner, no statistically significant difference between the two approaches was observed.

These preliminary results seem to show that dogs behave in a more friendly way towards the stranger when approached in an indirect way. DA seems to be more stressful for dogs, likely because it is perceived as more threatening.