A cultural selection analysis of human-dog interactions - a primer

Nicole Pfaller-Sadovsky, Camilo Hurtado-Parrado PhD

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Mounting interest in the evolutionary and contemporary aspects of human-dog association has resulted in growing research efforts from different disciplines with differing methodologies and areas of emphasis. Despite its potential to contribute to the understanding of human-dog interactions, behavior-analytic research efforts are scarce. We are illustrating how the behavior-analytic three-level selection by consequences framework could be applied to inform research on human-dog interactions. Therefore, the notions of interlocking behavioral contingencies and metacontingencies are applied to interpret specific interactions and suggest potential lines of research. We first analyze the development of cooperative hunting of prehistoric humans and dogs, and its implications for interspecific social-communicative skills. Second, we discuss contemporary family practices that involve the interactions between parents, children and family dogs via an analysis of a prototypic social episode. Lastly, we provide an overview of the main approaches that have contributed to the understanding of the human-dog interactions (e.g., anthrozoological), and show how their findings can be placed within the behavior-analytic framework. We conclude that the coherence of the selectionist framework is a major strength that not only can contribute to synthesize a large amount of scattered research on human-dog relationships conducted across various fields, but can also inform further research and applications.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
JournalEuropean Journal of Behavior Analysis
Early online date17 Jul 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 17 Jul 2020


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