Puppies Are Wired To Communicate

No you are not crazy Your dog understands you and likes to talk to you.

Yes, it’s true, dogs really are woman (and man’s) best friends and it seems that this was inevitable from the start. Puppies are perhaps some of the cutest and friendliest animals, and a new study shows that it is all in their genetics, not some learned behavior.

A recent study published in the science journal Current Biology found that a puppy’s human-like social skills are all natural. Postdoctoral fellow Emily Bray of the University of Arizona School of Anthropology led this study along with a team of other postdoctoral students. She worked with Canine Companions to conduct her dog-related research.

California-based Canine Companions trains service dogs to help people with physical disabilities. Bray and her team originally wanted to study how dogs think and solve problems. They had 375 8-week-old puppies available to be trained as service dogs. All of these dogs had a little one-on-one conversation with humans.

Their interactions took place mostly within their own litter. Bray used this information to theorize that the pups have not yet had an opportunity to learn or copy human behavior. EurekAlert reported the details of this study.

RELATED: Research Suggests Getting a Dog for a “Better” Behaving Child

Puppies are born to communicate with people.

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Bray developed some test tasks that she and her team performed on all of the puppies. In one task, the researcher showed the puppy a treat and placed it under one of two upturned cups on a table. The person testing the puppy then taps the cup in which the treat indicates that the puppy should find the treat. For the test, a second treat was taped into the second cup to make sure the puppy was actually listening and not just sniffing a treat.

Two of the tasks are designed to determine how dogs look at human faces and for how long. The researchers spoke to the dogs in a high-pitched, positive-sounding voice, similar to how we speak to babies. It’s called “dog-directed language,” and this test was designed to determine if puppies were trying to interact socially with people by confirming that they were listening. It was then measured how long the puppy held its gaze at the researcher.

The pups were then given a task they couldn’t complete, which was used to measure whether pups ask people for help. The researchers gave their puppy test subjects a treat in a closed container and watched the puppy try to open it. It was impossible and the researchers wanted to see if the dogs would initiate an interaction with a human. Very few puppies have tried to get help, so the team believes the ability to get in touch with a human is learned later.

Overall, Bray and her team found that puppies are genetically wired to socialize with people and, to some extent, know how to communicate. Other skills are learned organically through interaction. This is very similar to young children.

READ MORE: Dogs feel at home and adapt children’s behavior, research says

Source: Eureka Alert, Daniel Horschler-Post Doc

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About the author

Larissa Marulli
(409 published articles)

Larissa Marulli has been a housewife for eight years. Shortly before the birth of her first child, she completed a degree in journalism. The proud mother of two is from Colorado and loves the mountains, the changing seasons and hot coffee all year round. Larissa saw it all and struggled with the challenges of motherhood. She gets better with age and takes pride in using the written word to entertain and educate others. Larissa loves books, naps, people in small doses, and her family.

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