The world is divided between cat and dog lovers, but what remains a fact is that puppies are still our best friends. Both animals are amazing and very intelligent pets, without a doubt, but they differ in various ways.
Dogs are more needy, and demand more attention, while cats are more autonomous. Yet, dogs are more sensitive to our emotions, they recognize fear, sense when we are sad, protect us, and make a difference between happy and angry faces.
Now, a study confirmed that they are much better at recognizing our personality than we thought!
A study published in the journal Animal Cognition, conducted by a team of researchers led by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University in Japan, presented 34 dogs with three rounds of pointing.
Dogs understand when we point at something, a ball, a stick, or food. Yet, researchers showed that they can figure out if those gestures are misleading!
Researchers wanted to discover if dogs “automatically” follow human pointing gestures or they check the reliability of the pointer. All dogs were tested in two different experiments in which a piece of food was hidden in one of two containers.
These were their notes:
Phase 1, an experimenter pointed at the baited container [filled with food]; the second container was empty.
Phase 2, after showing the contents of both containers to the dogs, the experimenter pointed at the empty container.
Phase 3, the procedure was exactly as in Phase 1.
They found that most of the dogs followed the pointing in Phase 1, most ignored it in Phase 3.
In the new step, the dogs eagerly followed a new experimenter who repeated Phase 1. Yet, they did not lose motivation.
“These results suggest that not only dogs are highly skilled at understanding human pointing gestures, but also, they make inferences about the reliability of a human who presents cues and consequently modify their behavior flexibly depending on the inference.”
Takaoka was surprised to discover that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly:
“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long-life history with humans.”
She added that she intends the reaction of closely related species, like wolves, in the same situation.
John Bradshaw, an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s vet school, believes that this study shows dogs prefer predictability:
“Dogs whose owners are inconsistent with them often have behavioral disorders. If they consistently don’t know what’s going to happen next, they can get stressed, aggressive, or fearful.”
When it comes to the second step of the experiment, he adds that “dogs are almost information junkies,” and they are fascinated with anything new.
Yet, he also explains that dogs are much more intelligent than we once believed, but their intelligence is different from ours. They are “very sensitive to human behavior but they have fewer preconceptions,” and they “ they don’t reflect back on the past in an abstract way, or plan for the future”, but live in the present.
Moreover, an experiment published in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews indicates that dogs clearly read the communication between their owners and strangers.
Dog owners acted out a scenario where they asked strangers for help, and their dogs watched on. The dogs understood social rules well and knew if other people were rude and behaved badly to their owners, and avoided them, even when they were offered treats.