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Dogs really are man's best friend

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  • Dogs really are man's best friend

    Source: Dogs 'just get' humans in ways other animals can’t, evolutionary scientists conclude


    Dogs really are "man’s best friend" and “get” humans in a way other animals simply can’t relate to. Sorry "Game of Thrones" fans, a new study finds even the dog’s closest relatives -- wolf pups -- don’t gel with people the same way.

    Researchers from Duke University say 14,000 years of domestication plays a big part in this. In fact, man’s best friend has actually evolved to understand human gestures and look to humans for help in a way that no other animals do.

    Study authors, who compared wolf pups raised by humans to dogs who had barely any contact with people, discovered that dogs still outperform their wolf counterparts in tests of their understanding and co-operation with humans. The team behind the research adds their results show dogs instinctively understand people.

    "This study really solidifies the evidence that the social genius of dogs is a product of domestication," says Dr. Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology, in a university release.

    It's this ability, Hare says, which makes dogs such great service animals.

    "It is something they are really born prepared to do," the researcher adds.

    Dogs know people can help them, no matter what

    In one test, researchers hid a treat in one of two bowls, then gave each dog or wolf puppy a clue to help them find the food. In some trials, the researchers pointed and gazed in the direction of the hidden food. For the others, they placed a small wooden block beside the right spot -- a gesture the puppies had never seen before -- to show them where they hid the treat.

    The results reveal that, even with no specific training, dog puppies as young as eight weeks-old still understand where to go. Researchers add dogs were also twice as likely to get it right in comparison to wolf puppies around the same age who spent more time with people.

    More than half (17 out of 31) dog puppies consistently went to the right bowl while none out of the 26 human-reared wolf pups did better than a random guess. Control trials showed the puppies weren’t simply sniffing out the food. Even more impressively, many of the dog puppies got it right on their first try. Absolutely no training necessary, the dogs just got what humans were doing. Despite the results, Salomons says this isn't about which species is "smarter."


    Much like human infants, the team finds puppies intuitively understand what a human is doing when they point at something. Wolf puppies, on the other hand, did not pick up on this.

    “We think it indicates a really important element of social cognition, which is that others are trying to help you,” Hare explains.

    "Dogs are born with this innate ability to understand that we’re communicating with them and we’re trying to cooperate with them," doctoral student Hannah Salomons adds.

    It's not about intelligence, it's about evolution

    Dog puppies and wolf puppies proved equally adept in tests of other cognitive abilities, such as memory and motor impulse control, which involved making a detour around transparent obstacles to get food. It was only when it came to the puppies' people-reading skills that the differences became clear. "There’s lots of different ways to be smart," Salomons explains. "Animals evolve cognition in a way that will help them succeed in whatever environment they’re living in."

    Other tests show that dog puppies are also 30 times more likely than wolf pups to approach a stranger.

    "With the dog puppies we worked with, if you walk into their enclosure they gather around and want to climb on you and lick your face, whereas most of the wolf puppies run to the corner and hide," the student researcher continues.

    When presented with food inside a sealed container, the wolf pups generally tried to solve the problem on their own. Conversely, the dog puppies spent more time turning to people for help, looking them in the eye as if to say "I’m stuck, can you fix this?"

    Proving that the history between humans and dogs goes way back in time

    Dr. Hare believes the research offers some of the strongest evidence yet of what's known as the "domestication hypothesis." Somewhere between 12,000 and 40,000 years ago, long before dogs learned to fetch, they shared an ancestor with modern wolves. How these feared predators transformed into man’s best friend is still a bit of a mystery.

    One theory is that, when humans and wolves first met, only the friendliest wolves would have been tolerated and gotten close enough to scavenge on early human leftovers instead of running away. Whereas the shyer, meaner wolves might go hungry, the friendlier ones would survive and pass on the genes that made them less fearful or aggressive toward humans.

    The theory is that this continued generation after generation, until the wolf's descendants became masters at gauging the intentions of people they interact with by deciphering their gestures and social cues.


    Source

    © Copyright Original Source




    The entire paper, Cooperative Communication with Humans Evolved to Emerge Early in Domestic Dogs can be read at the link provided (at least for now, I've known some things to be available at Current Biology to disappear behind a pay wall later on), although you can read the "abstract" (highlights and summary) below:

    Highlights
    • Dog puppies are more attracted to humans than wolf puppies raised by humans
    • Dog puppies use human gestures and make eye contact more than wolf puppies
    • Both species perform similarly on memory and inhibitory control tasks
    • Dogs’ early emerging social skills demonstrate domestication’s effect on cognition


    Summary

    Although we know that dogs evolved from wolves, it remains unclear how domestication affected dog cognition. One hypothesis suggests dog domestication altered social maturation by a process of selecting for an attraction to humans.1, 2, 3 Under this account, dogs became more flexible in using inherited skills to cooperatively communicate with a new social partner that was previously feared and expressed these unusual social skills early in development.4, 5, 6 Here, we compare dog (n = 44) and wolf (n = 37) puppies, 5–18 weeks old, on a battery of temperament and cognition tasks. We find that dog puppies are more attracted to humans, read human gestures more skillfully, and make more eye contact with humans than wolf puppies. The two species are similarly attracted to familiar objects and perform similarly on non-social measures of memory and inhibitory control. These results are consistent with the idea that domestication enhanced the cooperative-communicative abilities of dogs as selection for attraction to humans altered social maturation.


    Some of the testing used reminds me of some of the experiments they repeated on a PBS series that Alan Alda hosted on what it means to be human (broadly speaking) and examining humans developing from infancy, showing the differences between how the minds of toddlers worked at solving a problem compared to those of a young chimpanzee[1]. They were the sort that nearly anyone could see and understand as well as replicate (well, the last part is more limited).

    Personally, I believe that not only do dogs understand us much better than we realize, we could understand what they are "saying" to us much better than we do if we paid closer attention. And remember, what they have to "say" won't be a philosophical discussion of abstract principles.





    1. One of the other things they explored were the differences between boys and girls that could be observed even at extremely young ages -- long before any social conditioning could have any effect. The experiment I remember most clearly was one recreating the study which found that boys are far more likely to try to scale and cross barriers designed to keep babies in or away from areas than girls are. IOW, they revealed that even in infancy, long before society could possibly impress gender roles or expectations on them, boys and girls are profoundly different. Or as Alda said (paraphrasing), something that parents who had raised both boys and girls already knew.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

  • #2
    The neat thing about this to me is that (from what i've read) dogs will outperform chimpanzees in interpreting human gestures, even though chimps score far better on tests of general intelligence.

    (I guess it shows that you don't need to be very smart to be socially adept?)
    "Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from trolling."

    Comment


    • #3
      My pup Jake is spookily good at reading my body language. Almost like he is reading my mind

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Sparko View Post
        My pup Jake is spookily good at reading my body language. Almost like he is reading my mind
        The one I had many years ago used to come over when I ate and rest his chin on my lap as I ate lunch or dinner. If I ignored him he would lift up his front legs so there was more weight on my legs from his chin pressing down.

        That never bothered me until the summer. The AC in the place sucked. Basically only the bedrooms stayed cool. When he'd rest his chin on my lap I didn't appreciate it or his hot breath. I don't know how I got him to understand (he was an incredibly smart dog and paid acute attention to anything food related) that if he stayed away and kept his "furnace face" away while I ate he'd always get "last bite."

        For awhile he'd sit waiting for me to tell him "last bite" but before long he'd go off to his "hidey hole" (under an end table between a wall and the sofa) while I ate and nap. What got to me is that he always emerged from his hole just before I was about to call him. It was like he could read my mind and "knew" when I was going to call him for "last bite."

        I think it wasn't until after he was gone that it dawned on me how he knew. I have a tendency to scrape the last scraps on the plate with my fork and eating them (I already set aside his piece) and he must have associated the sound of the side of a fork scrape across a plate with me finishing and calling him.

        Clever boy.

        Still miss him too.

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          The one I had many years ago used to come over when I ate and rest his chin on my lap as I ate lunch or dinner. If I ignored him he would lift up his front legs so there was more weight on my legs from his chin pressing down.

          That never bothered me until the summer. The AC in the place sucked. Basically only the bedrooms stayed cool. When he'd rest his chin on my lap I didn't appreciate it or his hot breath. I don't know how I got him to understand (he was an incredibly smart dog and paid acute attention to anything food related) that if he stayed away and kept his "furnace face" away while I ate he'd always get "last bite."

          For awhile he'd sit waiting for me to tell him "last bite" but before long he'd go off to his "hidey hole" (under an end table between a wall and the sofa) while I ate and nap. What got to me is that he always emerged from his hole just before I was about to call him. It was like he could read my mind and "knew" when I was going to call him for "last bite."

          I think it wasn't until after he was gone that it dawned on me how he knew. I have a tendency to scrape the last scraps on the plate with my fork and eating them (I already set aside his piece) and he must have associated the sound of the side of a fork scrape across a plate with me finishing and calling him.

          Clever boy.

          Still miss him too.
          Jake seems to be able to tell time. At 3PM I have to take a pill and I have them next to a little cup of snacks on my desk where I am working from home. At first I gave him a treat when I took my pill. After a few times he somehow knew exactly when treat time is and now he comes over and sits at my feet waiting for a treat right before 3PM. I am just typing away right now and he came over and did it (it is just 3PM). I said, "Hey is it treat time?" and yep. Just before my watch beeped to tell me to take my pill.


          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Sparko View Post
            Jake seems to be able to tell time. At 3PM I have to take a pill and I have them next to a little cup of snacks on my desk where I am working from home. At first I gave him a treat when I took my pill. After a few times he somehow knew exactly when treat time is and now he comes over and sits at my feet waiting for a treat right before 3PM. I am just typing away right now and he came over and did it (it is just 3PM). I said, "Hey is it treat time?" and yep. Just before my watch beeped to tell me to take my pill.
            My mother's dog always knew when my dad was coming home. Now he would hear the bus and know when my brother or I was coming home, but my father literally never drove the same vehicle for more than two weeks. So there would be no way for him to recognize the sound of his car.

            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
              My mother's dog always knew when my dad was coming home. Now he would hear the bus and know when my brother or I was coming home, but my father literally never drove the same vehicle for more than two weeks. So there would be no way for him to recognize the sound of his car.
              Dogs have evolved ESP!

              8d68f6feea1c749f5ebc438c0c36d54f.jpg

              Comment


              • #8
                I even saw an entire family of dogs driving around in a subaru!

                subaru-dog-tested-gas-station-large-9.jpg?itok=DOB_iur5.jpg

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                  I even saw an entire family of dogs driving around in a subaru!

                  subaru-dog-tested-gas-station-large-9.jpg?itok=DOB_iur5.jpg
                  Is that the one where the father is afraid his son's barking was going to get them in trouble with the police (they had just been pulled over)?

                  I'm always still in trouble again

                  "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                  "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                    Is that the one where the father is afraid his son's barking was going to get them in trouble with the police (they had just been pulled over)?
                    Profiling!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      on-the-internet-nobody-knows-921x1024.jpgI wonder how many posters here are actually dogs.
                      "Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from trolling."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TheLurch View Post
                        on-the-internet-nobody-knows-921x1024.jpgI wonder how many posters here are actually dogs.
                        I have my suspicions!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TheLurch View Post
                          on-the-internet-nobody-knows-921x1024.jpgI wonder how many posters here are actually dogs.
                          Maybe you should start a thread asking who wants to go outside? For a walk! And maybe chase a tennis ball or catch a frisbee.

                          Those that respond are likely suspects. Especially the ones that get hyperactively overexcited about the idea.



                          NeatDefinitiveAracari-max-1mb.gif

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well we do have evidence that cats are on the internet. Just look at the "teallaura" account. So since dogs are smarter than cats, it is likely they are on the internet too. My dog Jake has his own facebook page!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                              Is that the one where the father is afraid his son's barking was going to get them in trouble with the police (they had just been pulled over)?
                              Guess not



                              I'm always still in trouble again

                              "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                              "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                              Comment

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