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Dogs Adept at Reading People's Minds
Date:7/15/2011

or wolf. The other person had their vision blocked, either with a bucket over their head, a book obscuring their face or because their back was turned. Both humans held a piece of food.

"On average, both dogs and wolves were significantly more likely to be begging from the person looking at them when the other person's back was turned," said Udell.

But levels of sensitivity did vary by how domesticated the dog or wolf was.

"Domesticated dogs were more likely to beg from someone paying attention to them, but shelter dogs and wolves who don't often see a person reading books were not likely to get that cue," Udell related. "So it does seem like specific life experiences really do matter in this context."

The findings, said Udell, are "important because previous research suggested that something happened to dogs during genetic domestication that made them begin to think like humans. This shows that wolves are capable, if reared with humans, of [picking up human cues]."

"Animal people in the scientific community have known for some time that dogs are pretty smart and very good at reading our body language," said Adam Goldfarb, director of the Pets at Risk Program of the Humane Society of the United States. "This shows that something about dogs or wolves inherently allows them to read humans far better than other animals can."

More information

The Humane Society of the United States has more on canine behavior.

SOURCES: Monique A.R. Udell, Ph.D., researcher, University of Florida, Gainesville; Adam Goldfarb, director, Pets at Risk Program, Humane Society of the United States; June 4, 2011, Learning & Behavior, online


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