How well do dingoes, Canis dingo, perform on the detour task?

Bradley Smith, C Litchfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    The 'detour task' assesses spatial problem-solving abilities, requiring the subject to travel around a transparent barrier to obtain a reward. Recent studies have found that domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, generally perform poorly on this task, and fail to improve performance significantly after repeated trials or generalize problem-solving strategies when conditions are reversed. In contrast, wolves, Canis lupus, have been shown to be more proficient at this task than their domestic counterparts. Wild canids, however, have yet to be tested on the V-shaped version of the detour task. We tested 20 sanctuary raised dingoes, Canis dingo, randomly allocated to one of four experimental conditions previously tested on dogs: inward detour (doors closed); outward detour (doors closed); inward detour (doors open); or inward detour (human demonstrator). Four trials were given for each condition, with the fifth trial reversed. Overall, dingoes completed the detour task successfully, with shorter latencies and fewer errors than dogs tested in previous studies. The results lend support to the idea that captive-raised wild canids are more adept at nonsocial problem solving than domestic dogs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-162
    Number of pages8
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


    • Canid
    • Canis dingo
    • Detour task
    • Dingo
    • Dog
    • Domestication
    • Intelligence
    • Problem solving


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