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From USA Today online:

Like babies, dogs pick up on human intent
By Amanda Gardner, HealthDay Updated 14h 59m ago

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.
Domesticated dogs were more likely to beg food from a person looking at them as opposed to someone who wasn't paying attention, another study found.
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 voice, "Hi dog!"
In the second experiment, the actor said "Hi dog" in a low-pitched voice but didn't make eye contact.
Using eye-tracking techniques, which are already commonly used to study infant behavior, the researchers determined that the dogs were more likely to follow the human turning toward the pot when they had both been spoken to and received direct eye contact. Saying "Hi dog" in a low-pitched voice without the direct gaze didn't cue the dogs in to the human's intent.
Eye-tracking techniques are also likely to be useful in studying other aspects of dogs' cognitive processing, such as memory skills and reasoning abilities, said Topal, who is an associate professor in the Comparative Behavior Research Group at the Institute for Psychological Researches, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in Budapest.
"The [dog's] gaze was only triggered when preceded by communicating intent. It does seem to be that dogs do look at humans and follow gestures," said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass. "This is intuitive to anyone who owns a dog, that dogs seem to be more in tune with us than some scientists believe."
"This should reinforce that if we want our dog's attention, we should be clear about it," Goldfarb said. "For those people who talk to their dog in a baby-talk voice, they should keep it up. Your dog knows that you're talking to him or her and will pay more attention."


source:Dogs may pick up on human intent - USATODAY.com
 

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That is a fascinating article. I know that when were getting puppy lessons. Are trainer made us teach him, "look at me". To get his attention. Then we could proceed with the next behaviour lesson.
 

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The article is interesting and as Dodman says, "intuitive for anyone who owns a dog...." but why-o-why does the media continually choose to site the HSUS as some sort of credible resource?

The parts of the article that give me shivers are the quotes from HSUS.
I see the quotes as just another drip-drip-drip-drip in the effort to humanize dogs and when dogs are humanized then they must be treated as human beings - which means they can not be bred with purpose and intent...they can not be trained to hunt, compete in agility or obedience, trained to sniff for narcotics or to work for police departments or trained as service dogs because to do so would be against their free will....

I thank each and every one of you that breeds, trains and maintains your dogs natural desire to herd and hunt. You may very well be the ones to save and preserve purebred dogs for us all.

"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."

"This should reinforce that if we want our dog's attention, we should be clear about it," Goldfarb said. "For those people who talk to their dog in a baby-talk voice, they should keep it up. Your dog knows that you're talking to him or her and will pay more attention."

Dallas Gold, I thank you for your patience with my rant and apologize in advance...
I do find it interesting that scientist choose to study communication between species...

As to the study...they used pet dogs in the study. It makes sense that pet dogs (and especially pet dogs that have humans willing to take them to participate in a communications study) would be frequently looked at & talked to in friendly high pitched voices - and I'm sure rewarded with petting/food/play... It makes sense that they come to see those voices and their faces as something worth watching and following...
I wonder if the pet dogs had become conditioned & rewarded to hearing low pitched voices and no eye contact...if they would have followed the human turning toward the pot? I suspect yes...but can not imagine a pet owner willing and able to test the theory.
 

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I honestly am not sure where my thoughts are headed on this... other than I'm slightly impatient when I see studies like this that MARVEL about a dog responding to something on TV. This when most dogs out there are so much more intelligent than that. Especially those bred specifically for independance and those bred specifically for trainability and compliance. Dogs in the highest levels of the obedience ring, for example, are trained to be intuned with their owner and picking up the slightest (nonverbal) signals from their owner. Many trainers even in the lower levels capitalize on that and teach their dogs a variety of cues so that we can give extra commands or guidance without losing points. :)

As far as reading body language (!) - that is NOT just a human trait. :headroll:

So I guess I'm somewhat in the same direction as LibertyME on this, even though I do view my dogs as members of the family vs just animals.
 
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