The relationships between morphological features and social signalling behaviours in juvenile dogs: The effect of early experience with dogs of different morphotypes Academic Article uri icon


  • Research on dog communication has tended to focus on breed differences and the use of lupine signals by the domestic dog. However, the relationship between morphological change and communication has received little empirical study. The link between morphology and behavioural selection in a canid undergoing domestication, the silver fox (Vulpes vulpes), has been well documented. Therefore, it is reasonable to propose a similar link may be present in another canid species that has undergone domestication, namely the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Inter-morphotype interactions (587 interactions) of 115 juvenile dogs aged 8-20 weeks from over 30 breeds and various hybrids, enrolled in veterinary "Puppy Socialisation Classes", were video taped. Each signal that could be sent, was recorded, and the sending and the intended receiving dog identified. The frequencies with which a dog sent each category of signal, and the frequency with which each category of signal was directed at the dog (elicited), were calculated. The relationship between these frequencies and the morphology of the dog was then studied using generalized linear models. Overall morphology of the dog was not related to either the sending or eliciting of any social signaling behaviours (social signals). However, snout length was related to both the signals sent by a dog, and especially the signals that were directed to a dog (elicited). Relationships to eye cover and coat length were also found. Possible explanations for the results are discussed, and avenues for further research are indicated.

publication date

  • September 2010