Saturday 15 October 2011

Interaction with humans

A study by Monique Udell and her team, from the University of Florida has found how dogs think and learn about human behaviour and how they respond to their body language, verbal commands, and their attention.  The study suggests it is all down to a combination of specific cues, context and previous experience.
Udell and her team carried out two experiments comparing the performance of pet domestic dogs, shelter dogs and wolves by giving the animals the opportunity to beg for food, from either an attentive person or from a person unable to see the animal.
They wanted to know whether the rearing and living environment of the animal (shelter or human home), or the species itself (dog or wolf), had the greater impact on the animal's performance.
They showed, for the first time that wolves, like domestic dogs, are capable of begging successfully for food by approaching the attentive human.
This demonstrates that both dogs and wolves have the capacity to behave, observe and respond to a human's attention.
In addition, both wolves and pet dogs were able to rapidly improve their performance with practice.
The authors also found that dogs were not sensitive to all visual cues of a human's attention in the same way.
In particular, dogs from a home environment rather than a shelter were more sensitive to stimuli predicting attentive humans. Those dogs with less regular exposure to humans did not perform and responded as well.