HOW DOGS ARE LIKE PEOPLE

 

Dogs act more human than canine according to research.  They have picked up on people’s traits such as jealousy and empathy in addition to reading facial expressions and body language and even tone of voice.

Man’s best friend has come to have characteristics that mirror ours as a result of paying attention to us and getting along with us.  Our interactions with other people are under constant observation by our dog, new research suggests.  Social eavesdropping and people-watching are at the core of human social interactions.  It is part of what helps us to figure out who’s nice and who’s not.  Our dogs do the same thing.

Fifty-four dogs were tested by scientists.  The dog owners were to struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container under the watchful eyes of their dogs.  The scientists divided the dogs into three groups.

For the helper group, the owner requested help from another person to hold the container.

For the non-helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who wouldn’t help and turned their back to them.

For the control group, the additional person wasn’t asked for help and simply turned his back on the situation.

A neutral person was present for the experiments to simply observe.

Following this round of testing, both the helper or non-helper and the neutral person offered the dog a treat.

The dogs most frequently favored the neutral person’s treat in the non-helper group, thereby shunning the non-helper.  However, the dogs didn’t favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other in the helper group.

It would certainly seem that dogs shun the people who they deem mean to their owners.

Following the gaze of a human is instinctual for many animals, including humans, chimps, goats and dolphins because it alerts animals to immediate threats as well as to something that may be very pleasant for them.

Previously, it was believed that the only time dogs seemed to follow human gazes was when food or toys were involved.  A dog will also follow a man’s gaze into blank space, a new study suggests.  However, they will only do it if they’re untrained.  Training was key to the puzzle.

A hundred and forty-five Border Collies were recruited for a recent experiment.  They possessed a variety of ages and training levels.  The researchers were looking to see what characteristics, if any, influenced the dog’s tendency to follow a man’s gaze.  They were specifically looking at their training, habituation, and age.

The dogs’ reactions were observed as a man gazed toward a door. Surprisingly, the only ones to follow the man’s gaze were the untrained Border Collies.  The trained dogs ignored it.  It may be a result of trained dogs learning to focus on a person’s face rather than focusing on where he is looking.

Following five minutes of training, the untrained dogs now were ignoring their natural instinct to follow the man’s gaze and were instead focusing on the man’s face.

What was more surprising was that the untrained dogs often glanced back and forth between her and the door. They seemed baffled at what she was looking at. This behavior, only seen before in humans and chimps, is called “check backs” or “double looking.”



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