New University of Portsmouth study shows that dogs may know what is ‘relevant’ to humans

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  • Observational tests conducted on 72 canines at Dog Cognition Centre
  • Research may benefit work with search, rescue and guide dogs
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IF you’ve ever thought your dog was in tune with your thoughts, you might just be right.

Tests on 72 dogs at the University of Portsmouth discovered the animals seemed to ‘know’ which objects were most relevant to their keeper.

Researchers observed the dogs’ interest in opaque boxes, each containing a single object such as a notepad, a stapler or a dog toy.

The tests, which were carried out by Patrizia Piotti and Dr Julianne Kaminski at the university’s Dog Cognition Centre, established that dogs were helpful to the person because they repeatedly indicated hidden objects without being rewarded.

Ms Piotti said: ‘Dogs have outstanding abilities when it comes to communicating with humans, and these results are a step forward in research looking at whether they actually use communication to inform others.

‘Researchers are interested in understanding how and why dogs have successfully become humans’ best friends, and how their human-like qualities evolved.’

During the tests, dogs did not identify objects of human relevancy – such as the notepad – more often than irrelevant ones, but they were more insistent when indicating the relevant object, especially when addressed by a human partner.

Ms Piotti has said that the research may be useful in work with search and rescue dogs, as well as guide dogs.

The university is looking for more dogs of any age, sex, breed or level of experience to continue their studies.

For more information, go to port.ac.uk/dogcognition