Péter et. al investigated dogs’ performance in an object search tasks in an ostensive context.
During hiding, the experimenter continuously maintained the dogs’ attention on himself by frequently turning his head back, calling the dog’s name and waving the target object. They tested the dogs in four different conditions:
In the ‘direct’ condition the experimenter moved straight towards the actual location, hid the object and returned to the dog. In the ‘indirect’ conditions, he additionally walked behind each screen before returning. The two ‘indirect’ conditions differed from each other in that the human either visited the previously baited locations before (proactive interference) or after (retroactive interference) hiding the object.
The interference between the target’s location and the route of the experimenter during hiding markedly affect dogs’ choices. In the ‘indirect’ groups, dogs’ performance was significantly lower than in the ‘direct’ groups, demonstrating that for dogs, in an ostensive context, spatial cues provided by a human are as important as the observed location of the target. Based on their incorrect choices, dogs were most attracted to the previously baited locations that the human visited after hiding the object in the actual trial.