‘Any opinion different than yours is not an attempt to control you.’ –Laurie Percival


Previous studies have shown that dogs are capable of a remarkable range of human-like behaviours; they have been shown to perform as well or even better than chimpanzees at responding to human body language, verbal commands and attention states.

This has led to debate as to whether dogs are aware of people’s behaviour and can predict how a person will act as a result of it, or whether they are simply responding to the presence or absence of certain stimuli.

Publishing in the journal Learning & Behaviour, Udell and colleagues carried out two experiments to test the ability of pet dogs, rescue shelter dogs and wolves, to successfully beg for food from an attentive individual, versus an inattentive individual. (…)

In the first experiment, two people simultaneously offered food to the subject dog or wolf. One person was always attentive, giving the animal eye contact, while the other was unable to see the animal as they either had a camera or book obscuring their eyes, their back turned or a bucket over their head. (…)

The results showed, for the first time, that wolves as well as domestic dogs tended to beg for food from an attentive individual rather someone who was not paying attention. (…)

“The logical conclusion of the study must be that both genetics and the environment can play a role in the dogs’ behaviour, but the fundamental aspect seems to be genetic with only fine tuning being done by the dogs’ experience in the human environment,” he added.

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