Dogs Can Follow Your Gaze To Get What They Want

Dogs are super smart. Not just your dog — all dogs. Specifically, they're able to interpret a human's gaze to understand them or to get what they want. Your dog can literally take on your visual perspective to know what you know. How cool is that?

You Can't Hide Anything

In March 2017, cognitive biologists from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna published a study in the journal Animal Cognition. Their research reveals that dogs use "geometrical gaze following" to take on a human's perspective. In other words, your dog is able to follow your gaze toward his box of treats and know that that's where you're hiding them. What's more, he knows whether you know that's where the treats are, or whether you're just guessing.

In this study, researchers used a standard "guesser-knower paradigm," where the "knower" human hid dog food in a container, and the "guesser" human didn't know where the food was being hidden. The researchers positioned a dog behind a solid wall while the knower hid the food in one of many containers, all of which smelled like food. The knower pointed to the correct container, while the guesser pointed to a different container. In order to get the food, the dog had to decide who it should follow. Seventy percent of the dogs successfully accomplished the test by choosing the knower's container. We repeat: both humans pointed at a container in the exact same way, but the majority of dogs were able to successfully pick which human actually knew where the food was. That's saying something.

Fluffy "Gets" You

Dogs literally evolved alongside humans, so it makes sense that they would have acquired certain communication skills to cope in the human world. Their ability to adopt their owners' perspectives and to ascribe knowledge from them proves their social intelligence. It could also indicate that they have a "theory of mind," or as explains it, "the ability in humans to understand mental states in conspecifics such as emotions, intentions, knowledge, beliefs and desires." Whether or not animals actually have a theory of mind remains a contentious issue, but we're pretty sure dogs can read us like a book.

How Smart Are Animals, Really?

Dogs Can Learn Up To 160 Words

Key Facts In This Video

  1. When it comes to dog comprehension, it's more about how you say something than what you are actually saying. 01:05

  2. One dog in Germany was found to understand more than 200 words. 02:08

  3. The german shepherd, poodle and golden retriever were among the smartest dog breeds. 03:14

Written by Curiosity Staff April 21, 2017

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