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How well do dogs understand our body language and signals?

3 years, 7 months ago - Views

How well do dogs understand our body language and signals?

You are in the hallway and you are looking at the leash and the dog already jumps to the door full of anticipation and looks forward to the upcoming walk. Many dog owners has already made this experience. How well our four-legged friends understand our body language and signals, you will get to know in this article.


Wie gut verstehen Hunde unsere Koerpersprache und Signale 

For a long time, researchers have examined the extent to which dogs can understand indications from the behavior and the signals of humans. Recent studies show that dogs possess cognitive abilities. They are very good at it, to interpret movements and gestures of humans and have also the ability to recognize and understand intentions or desires of people.

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In such tests are often used two containers, generally buckets or cups, which are placed upside down. Under a container is a treat. The dog may not see under which container the treat is positioned before.

Both containers are rubbed with the feed, so that no odor differences arise for the dog.

After that the dog will be given different signals or hints as to where exactly the treat is. A clear signal would be to knock on the container. A little less obvious would be to point to the container or even to turn just the head or the body in the direction of the container. The finest signal would be not to move, but to look with the eyes to the correct container.

If the dog chooses the correct container, he gets the treat. For humans this task seems very easy to solve, but for many animals, it is very difficult.




Dogs can better interpret social cues than chimpanzees

At the University of Louisiana and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig it was discovered that our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, performed very poor in this test. Even toddlers up to three years had problems with this test, but these performed better than chimpanzees.

In further tests at Harvard University and at the Max-Planck-Institute dogs could surprisingly interpret the signals of the humans four times better than chimpanzees and two times better than toddlers.

Why can dogs intepret human communication signals that good?

Because the dog is descended from the wolf, it might be possible that the ability to recognize social cues has evolved to better coordinate the hunt. But then wolves would have in the container test just do well, like dogs. But this is not the case. In these tests, wolves performed even worse than chimpanzees.

One might also suppose that dogs have learned this because they live in the families of humans and observe them. But this is also not the case, because even small puppies that are still living with the mother, perform better at the test than chimpanzees.

So it can be excluded that this ability was not inherited from the wolf and that contact with humans is not necessary to develop these.

Scientists explain it with the evolutionary change in the domestication of the dog. The ability to interpret the communication signals has evolved in the evolutionary process of the dog. Dogs who possessed this ability had better chances of survival in coexistence with humans.

What has not been figured out is whether dogs who better understood the humans were chosen for domestication or whether this ability occurred as a by-product in the evolution of domesticated dog.

The fact is that the dog, always as a faithful companion, goes through a co-evolution of over 15,000 years with the humans, in which the behavior of humans and animals have influenced each other and developed.

One thing you can say very clearly: No other animal understands the intentions and feelings of the humans better than a dog.

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