Dogs Are More Like Us Than We Thought

September 4, 2019

Dogs Have More Human like Traits than their Ancestor the Wolf

More than 11,000 years ago some wolves started leaving their pack to scavenge for food by
following humans. As a result, research suggests, our canine friends started developing human
like traits. Dogs are highly social and can read signs from other dogs as well as humans. They are
highly sensitive to humans and can even recognize the tone of our voices, facial expressions, and
even posture.

By socializing with humans for thousands of years, dogs have sharpened their own social skills
to the extent that they mirror human traits. Here are some of those traits:

Eavesdropping

Dogs can understand commands and even follow instructions, but can they understand
interactions between humans? A new study seems to suggest that they often eavesdrop on you
when you interact with other people.

In one study, dogs seemed to be more receptive to humans who were kind to other humans. The
measure was whether the subjects would receive a positive reaction from the dog owner. The
researchers found that the pet was able to read the owners reactions towards other people.

Not everyone was convinced by this study. Some felt that the dog simply responded to those
people they thought were likely to be kind to them. For example, if a dog were to see a man
giving food to a beggar, they may respond positively to him because he is likely to be the one to
give them food.

Another study involved dogs watching their owners attempt to retrieve a tape from a container.
The study had three groups; in the helper group, the subjects requested help from another person
who agreed to assist with the task. In the non-helper group, the person requested for help turned
their backs. The third subject was neutral and simply sat in the room as a control.

In subsequent tests the dog seemed to favor the neutral subject over the non-helper. But there
was no difference between the helper and the neutral group. This suggests that more studies
could confirm what the intention is when they eavesdrop on humans.

Feeling Jealous

Another study also suggests that our canine buddies may also feel envious. For long, it has been
assumed that envy is a human construct. However, a new study suggests it may not be unique to
humans.

The study adopted the same methods used on infants. 36 dog owners were asked to show
affection towards a plush robot dog in the presence of their pet. About 80% of the dogs touched
their owners more times then they ignored their pets and played with the robot instead.

The researchers not only found that dogs can feel complex emotions such as jealousy, it also
made them conclude that a primordial form of the emotion exists in many animals. It also
explains why infants as young as 6 months old show such emotional reactions when maternal
attention is directed elsewhere.

Response to Human Gaze

Wolves, birds, tortoises, dolphins, apes and domesticated goats can respond to the human gaze.
When it comes to dogs, for a long time it was understood that dogs could not follow the gaze into
a blank space. It was widely believed that they only follow the gaze whenever toys and food
were present.

However, a new study suggests that it is training that determines whether dogs will follow their
owner’s gaze even when it is directed to a blank space. In a test to determine how following the
gaze can be influenced by training, Lisa Wallis from Vetmeduni in Vienna investigated 145
Border Collies whose age ranged from 6 months to 14 years.

The Border Collies were observed over a considerable period of their lifespan. They were split
into two groups; a test and a control. Dogs in both groups had received varying levels of training.
A command “watch” was given to indicate that they should follow the gaze.

When the experimenter used the command and looked at the door of the room the untrained dogs
followed the gaze. The trained ones continued to look at the experimenters face. This is because
trained dogs have learned to look at the facial expressions first before following the gaze.

The untrained collies stopped looking at the door when they were trained and instead started
looking at the experimenter’s face.

Another interesting observation was that the untrained group looked back and forth between the
door and the investigator. The phenomenon is referred to as “check backs” or “double looking”
and has only been previously observed in humans and chimps.

Scientists are still researching these aspects of the dog behavior. Findings from these studies can
help us understand how man and dog evolved side-by-side. It can give us further insights into the
psychological nature of our furry friends so that we can improve our relationship and be healthier
while working together.

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