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Daily Scoop

Is Your Dog Eavesdropping?

Photo Credit: Helena Lopes
Dogs Love Us More

As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend… But this could be more accurate than we’ve ever thought before. Why is this? It’s all to do with some incredible studies that have been conducted on animals and their behavior. They’re actually quite human like in their behavior and this is amazing. Did you know that pet can read your facial expressions? They are also able to show and communicate that they are feeling jealous. Dogs also have the ability to display empathy. To round it all off, they even watch TV! How have they learnt this behavior? It has been part of their evolution from wolves. Dogs only became domesticated pets between 11,000 to 16, 000 years ago. Let’s learn a little more about what our pets do that is just like their humans.

Photo Credit: Helena Lopes
Dogs Can Eavesdrop!

We all love to listen in on conversations that we shouldn’t be a part of. It seems somewhat ingrained in our behavior as humans. We also love to people-watch when we are out and about. This behavior allows humans to figure out other people and their intentions. Can dogs also tell who is good and who isn’t? A study took 54 and tested out their theory. The animals were divided into three different groups for the experiment. The groups were: helper, non-helper and control. Their owners were involved too and they were tasked with “struggling to retrieve a roll of tape from a container”.

The Results Of The Testing

What were the results? When the dogs were placed in the helper group, their owner would ask for help from a person in the room who held the container. With the non-helper group, the owner asked someone for help but then turned their back without assisting them. The last group was the control group. In this group, there was another person who already had their back turned without being asked for help. What is interesting to note is that there was a third “neutral” person in each of these sessions. 

What happened after the first round? The neutral person, the helper and the non-helper offered treats to the dogs. For the non-helper group, the animals took the treats from the “neutral” person and refused the treat from the non-helper. This definitely shows that the dogs were paying attention to the people in their room and noted their actions. We are interested to see where this research goes in the future!

Do Dogs Follow Your Gaze?

Now, let’s move onto the next similarity between people and dogs. Did you know that gaze following is actually instinctual for most animals? This includes humans, goats, dolphins, monkeys and even some tortoises! Why is this? It is thought to be because it alerts animals to things like immediate threats. Do dogs fall into this category? A new study thinks they do! Previously, dogs were only known to follow the human gaze when their owners used toys or treats. But, this theory might be wrong as dogs apparently follow the human gaze into blank spaces. There is a catch though – they only do this if they’re untrained.

Photo Credit: Helena Lopes

How did they discover this? A researcher on the project said, “We know they should be able to do it, but training was the missing piece of the puzzle.” They took 145 pet border collies to participate in the experiment. They made sure that they ranged in age and training levels. The researchers wanted to see what played a role in a dog’s tendency to follow the gaze of a human. The researcher would look towards a door and see which border collies responded to this. The result was that only untrained border collies follower her gaze. It is thought that this is because trained animals will rather look at the person’s face rather than where they are looking.

Testing Their Theory

To test if that theory was correct, they spent five minutes training the untrained dogs to look at her face. Did this have an impact on them following her gaze after that? It did! They actually started to resist their instinct to follow her gaze. What surprised researchers with this experiment was that the untrained dogs would look back and forth between the researcher and the door. Apparently, this behavior has only been seen before with humans and chimps. It is known as “check backs” or “double looking”. 

It is so interesting to learn more about the behavior of our furry friends. They each have their own personality and science is showing us why they are what they are. So, the moral of the story is be the good person that your dog thinks you are and make sure you surround yourself with people that your dog will like! 

Dogs Love Us More