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29/06/2011 Research shows its often about past experience

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Many people like to believe that their beloved pet dogs are so in tune with them that the dog must be able to read their minds.

A team from the University of Florida have studied the way dogs respond to the level of people’s attentiveness which tell them something about the ways dogs think and learn about human behaviour.

The research suggested that it was due to a combination of pointers such as specific cues, context and any previous experience. There has recently been research that has identified an interesting range of human-like social behaviours in the domestic dog this included the way dogs respond to human body language and verbal commands.

The study involved finding out whether dogs infer humans’ mental states by observing their appearance and behaviour and were responding accordingly or whether they learn more from experience by responding to environmental cues, absence of certain stimuli, or human behavioural cues.

One of the experiments the group researched seem to show that all dogs, whether they are wild, domesticated or from a shelter where able to alter their behaviours to gain food from a human if it meant they would be more successful in being fed and could further improve their chance of being fed by a human if allowed to practice.

They also found that dogs were not sensitive to all visual cues of a human’s attention in the same way, with dogs from a home environment being more sensitive to stimuli predicting human behaviour than a dog having lived in a shelter or rescue home.

The researcher said “These results suggest that dogs’ ability to follow human actions stems from a willingness to accept humans as social companions combined with conditioning to follow the limbs and actions of humans to acquire reinforcement”.

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