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Dogs can predict human behavior


Researchers found that untrained dogs seem to know how to respond to visual cues as well as those that might have had years of training

DogLondon: Man’s best friend is getting smarter, according to a new study which found that dogs are improving their ability to understand and even predict human behavior.

Evolutionary biologists suggest that thousands of years of evolving alongside humans have had a remarkable effect on dog cognition.

In a new study, researchers at Abertay University, Dundee, found that untrained dogs seem to know how to respond to visual cues as well as those that might have had years of training, ‘The Sunday Times’ reported.

Based on the findings, scientists predict that future generations of canines will become even ‘smarter’ and be capable of performing routine tasks or chores such as fetching a newspaper without being told to do so.

“As dogs have become domesticated, one of the abilities that has been selected for is attending to human behavior. As they get to know particular humans, they pay more attention to them and this may mean they can read, and even predict human behavior with more efficiency as familiarity grows,” said Clare Cunningham, who led the study.

Domestic dogs seem to possess an evolved competency to follow human-given cues, often out-performing their wild progenitor the wolf on cue-following tasks.

In the study, Cunningham along with her colleague Mari Ramos, observed how 24 dogs – highly trained animals, pets with basic training and untrained dogs living in a shelter reacted to visual cues from humans.

These included pointing to or gazing at a location for the dogs to move to, and a combination of both.

The responses of dogs that were trained to competitive levels were compared to those of pet dogs with only basic training, and dogs living in an animal shelter that demonstrated no or only rudimentary following of basic commands.

Whether the cue-giver was familiar or not had a significant effect on number of cues followed in homed dogs, and the performance of shelter dogs was comparable to the other groups when faced with an unfamiliar cue-giver.

Contrary to predictions, level of training did not improve performance on the cue-following task.

“This work does provide support for the presence of an evolved adaptation to exploit social cues provided by humans that can be augmented by familiarity with the cue giver,” wrote authors in the journal Animal Cognition.

“However, additional joint activity as experienced in an intensive training regime does not seem to increase accuracy in following human given cues,” they concluded.


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