Dogs may be more clever than we think

UNDER ORDERS Dr Juliane Kaminski and her dog Ambula
UNDER ORDERS Dr Juliane Kaminski and her dog Ambula

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DOGS may be able to understand a human’s point of view, new research has shown.

Dr Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology, has shown that when a human forbids a dog from taking food, dogs are four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lit room, suggesting they take into account what the human can or cannot see.

Dr Kaminski said: ‘That’s incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective.’

This is the first study to examine whether dogs differentiate between levels of light when they are developing strategies on whether to steal food.

It is published in the journal Animal Cognition. The research was funded by the Max Planck Society, Dr Kaminski’s former employer.

Dr Kaminski added: ‘Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that’s us thinking, not them.

‘These results suggest humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can’t be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others’ minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability.

‘The research is an incremental step in our understanding of dogs’ ability to think and understand which could, in turn, be of use to those who work with dogs, including the police, the blind and those who use gun dogs, as well as those who keep them as pets.’