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Dogs understand gestures as well as 2-year-old kids

Washington, July 14 (ANI): Dogs understand human pointing gestures as well as two-year-old children, according to two studies.

Also, the studies found that due to domestication, dogs appear to be predisposed to read other human visual signals, including head turning and gazing, reports Discovery News.

People often use baby talk, scientifically known as “motherese,” with both children and their pet dogs, allowing canines and kids to receive similar social stimulation.

Since chimpanzees and other non-human primates often fail to understand human pointing gestures, the studies suggest dogs may understand humans better than even our closest living animal relatives do.

In the first study, Gabriella Lakatos, a researcher in the Department of Ethology at Eotvos University, lead author of the first study, and her colleagues used a combination of finger-, elbow-, leg- and knee-pointing gestures to help dogs locate hidden food and, for children, a favourite toy.

The researchers found that two-year-olds and dogs understood everything except knee pointing and when the experimenter’s index finger pointed in a different direction than the protruding arm.

For example, they were confused when the individual raised an arm in a certain direction, but used her finger to point the other way.

In the second study, Marta Gacsi, also of Eotvos University, and her team analyzed 180 dogs of various ages to see how development and individual differences affect their understanding of human pointing.

They determined “the dogs showed no difference in the performance according to age, indicating that in dogs the comprehension of the human pointing may require only very limited and rapid early learning to fully develop.”

Lakatos, however, warned in thinking that dogs are just like furry two-year-old children.

“Any behavioral similarity or similar performance between dogs and children should be investigated separately in each case,” she said.

“Just to give an example for a reverse case: nobody has tried to herd a flock of sheep with two-year-old (human children),” she added.

The study has been published in the current issue of Animal Cognition. (ANI)

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