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What Makes a Dog Adoptable? An Eye-Tracking Investigation

Isgate, Sara, Couchman, Justin J.
Journal of applied animal welfare science 2018 v.21 no.1 pp. 69-81
Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, aggression, animal welfare, dogs, humans, personality, photographs, walking
Humans readily attribute personality and behavioral traits to dogs, and these attributions influence decisions about adoption. This study focused on how these attributions could be influenced by breed and pose by using pictures of four breeds (Doberman Pinscher, Golden Retriever, pit bull, and Rottweiler) in 4 poses (dog sitting alone, sitting with a human, standing alone, and walking on a leash with a human). Participants rated each picture on friendliness, aggressiveness, and adoptability. Eye-tracking technology identified which specific features were represented in each picture to determine whether they had any effect on the judgments. Although the Golden Retriever was seen as most adoptable, pose differences had many significant effects that could be useful for increasing the adoptability of all breeds. Data also revealed facial areas that attracted more attention (e.g., faster time to first fixation and longer fixation duration), particularly when the dog was alone. Focus on these areas could help to optimize photographs to present dogs in the friendliest, least aggressive, and most adoptable way.