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Like Babies, Dogs Pick Up on People's Intent
Date:1/5/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Man's beloved four-legged friends not only respond to the words and ministrations of humans, dogs can understand and anticipate the intentions of their people, researchers are reporting.

In a new study, dogs who were spoken to or who had direct eye contact with a person were more likely to follow that human's gaze as it moved across the room than if the person didn't make direct eye contact with them.

The skills are equivalent to what is seen in 6-month-old human infants, say researchers, who published their findings online Jan. 5 in Current Biology.

"These results support the notion that dogs are sensitive to the cues signaling humans' communicative intent in a way that is analogous to preverbal human infants," said study author Jozsef Topal.

"Dogs were domesticated for the purpose of working with people, so it's essential that the two species are able to communicate," said Adam Goldfarb, director of pet care issues at The Humane Society of the United States. "Even though most dogs have transitioned away from their work of herding or hunting, they've retained their communication tools."

More and more research is illuminating the uncanny human-like qualities of Canis lupus familiaris, better known as the domestic dog.

One study in the July 2011 issue of Learning & Behavior found that domesticated dogs were more likely to beg food from a person looking at them as opposed to someone who wasn't paying attention.

And canine-intelligence expert Stanley Coren has found that dogs have the developmental abilities of a human 2-year-old, with the average dog capable of learning the meanings of 165 words.

In the new study, 16 pet dogs watched videos of female actors turning towards a plastic pot.

In the first experiment, the actor gazed directly at the dog and said in a high-pitched vo
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