Table_1_Hormonal Correlates of Exploratory and Play-Soliciting Behavior in Domestic Dogs.DOCX

Exploration and play are considered to be crucial behaviors during mammalian development. Even though the relationship between glucocorticoids and exploratory behavior, stress, and anxiety is well described in the literature, very little is known about their role in play behavior in non-rodents. Likewise, the functional role of the “social hormone” oxytocin in exploration, play, stress, and anxiety is still unknown. The present work addresses this literature gap by studying plasma hormone profiles for cortisol (CORT) and oxytocin (OT) of domestic dogs exposed to a novel arena containing two unfamiliar trainers who did not interact with the dogs. We provide evidence suggesting a functional relationship between hormonal measures of cortisol and oxytocin and adaptive behavior (play-soliciting and exploration) in freely behaving domestic dogs. We have taken into account several possible factors in our analyses and interpretations, from the nature and quality of the measurements to demographic factors to statistical robustness. Our results indicate that reduced CORT levels are associated with increments of both play-soliciting behavior frequency and exploratory behavior duration. Furthermore, taken together, our data and our simulations suggest a relationship between OT and the enactment of play-soliciting behaviors by freely behaving domestic dogs that must be further investigated. Future studies should consider naturalistic structured and semi-structured experimental approaches linking behavior with (neuro) physiological measures, taking into account demographic factors such as age and relevant interphase factors such as the sex of the dog; and socio-historic factors such as the playfulness of the dog, history of interaction with young humans, among others, to take full account of interaction between humans and animals in comparative studies (Parada and Rossi, 2018).