A new report in Current Biology highlights that some dogs have the skills of a 6-month-old baby, USA Today reported.
The study’s results “support the notion that dogs are sensitive to the cues of signaling humans’ communicative intent in a way that is analogous to preverbal human infants,” said Jozsef Topel, the study’s author and an associate professor in the Comparative Behavior Research Group at the Institute for Psychological Researches, Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest.
In the study, 16 dogs watched videos of actresses turning toward a plastic pot.
During the first experiment, one actress stared directly into the dog’s eyes and said in a high-pitched voice, “Hi, dog.”
In a second experiment, the actress said, “Hi, dog,” in a low-pitched voice, but did not make direct eye contact.
The researchers used eye-tracking techniques similar to those used in studying infant behavior to determine the dogs were likelier to follow the human who turned toward the pot when they received eye-to-eye contact.
Topal suggested that eye-tracking techniques could also prove useful in studying dogs’ memory skills and reasoning abilities.
"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."
Adam Goldfarb, director of pet care issues at the Humane Society of the United States, said this is important research since dogs primarily work with people instead of hunting. He urged pet owners to keep up with their “baby-talk voice,” as it is likely to get the dog’s attention.