FRIDAY, June 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) — If it looks like your dog knows exactly what you’re saying, that’s because dogs are born to communicate with people, a new study suggests. accordingly.
The research, published June 3 in the journal current biology, suggests that puppies also have the ability to interact with people without any prior experience or training. However, some are better at communication than others based on their genetics.
Study author Emily Bray of the University of Arizona said, “We show that puppies will reciprocally alter human social vision and successfully use information given by humans in a social context from a very early age and before extensive experience with humans ” “For example, before puppies leave their mates to live one-on-one with their volunteers, most of them are able to find hidden food by following a human point to the indicated location ”
The researchers found that more than 40% of the variation in a puppy’s ability to follow a person’s finger-pointing or gazing behavior during a human-interest task is explained by genes.
“These are fairly high numbers, comparable to estimates of the heredity of intelligence in our own species,” Bray said in a journal news release. “All of these findings suggest that dogs are biologically ready for communication with humans.”
Bray and his colleagues have been conducting research with dogs for the past 10 years in collaboration with Canine Companions, an American service dog organization serving clients with physical disabilities.
Their goal is to better understand how dogs think and solve problems, as well as how these abilities develop and change over time. Their research also serves to understand how dogs’ personal experiences and genes contribute to these skills. This could have real-world implications for service dogs.
For the study, researchers worked with 375 eight-week-old budding service dogs that had a similar parenting history and a known lineage going back several generations, testing them on specific tasks.
Here is one of the working dogs:
The research team knew how all the pups were related to each other, so they could use this information to build a statistical model assessing genetic versus environmental factors.
Findings showed that the pups were proficient in social communication dependent on gestures and eye contact. This communication only worked when people started a conversation by talking aloud to the puppies. Without the person initiating the communication, puppies did not look to most people for answers in a task in which food was enclosed in a plastic container, for example.
“From a young age, dogs exhibit human-like social skills, which have a strong genetic component, meaning these abilities have a strong ability to undergo selection,” Bray said. “Our findings may therefore point to an important piece of the domestication story, in which animals with a tendency to communicate with our own species may have been selected for in populations of wolves that gave rise to dogs.”
The researchers now plan to identify the genes that contribute to the puppies’ behavior. They are currently collecting cognitive data and blood samples from adult dogs and plan to conduct genome-wide association studies.
They will also follow the results of dogs tested in the service dog program to see whether performance on any of the tested social tasks over eight weeks predicts successful graduation as a service dog.
American Kennel Club offers Some advice on dog training.
Source: current biology, news release, June 3, 2021