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Dogs acquire some cognitive abilities like babies


Dogs acquire some cognitive abilities like babies

The process of domestication changed the social development of dogs and led to the enhancement of their communicative and social abilities

When you refer to your dog to “go and find the ball” you know he will understand and do it right away.. This knack for understanding human gestures may seem unremarkable, but it is a complex cognitive ability that is rare in the animal kingdom.

The researchers explained in a study published in the journal "Current Biology" today, "Monday", July 12, that chimpanzees, the closest relatives of humans, cannot do this, and wolves, the closest relatives of dogs, cannot do this either.

They added that as a result of dogs hanging out with humans for more than 14,000 years, something intriguing happened in the dogs' minds. They have acquired what are known as "theory of mind" abilities, or mental skills that allow them to infer what people think and feel in certain situations.

The study supports the idea that domestication - the animal's acquisition of genetic traits as a result of its interaction with humans - not only changed the dogs' appearance, but also their minds.

The researchers compared 44 dogs and 37 wolf dogs (a female dog-male wolf hybrid, which is also domesticated) and all dogs ranged in age from 5 to 18 weeks.

"Puplets have high levels of social skills that allow them to communicate cooperatively, such as understanding that human gestures are meant to help them find a dog," says lead researcher Hannah Salomons, a doctoral student at Duke University who specializes in cooperative behavior and evolutionary anthropology. on hidden food, when compared to young dogs belonging to the wolf dog.

"The dog was also more attracted to humans, and it approached strangers and familiar people more often than the wolf dog, however, the dogs and the wolf dog performed similarly on non-social tasks," Salomons said in statements to "Science."

The study was conducted at the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota; Hybrid wolf dogs that were bred with a lot of human interaction, such as hand feeding, sleeping in their caretakers' beds every night, and receiving nearly round-the-clock human care a few days after birth, in contrast, lived with their mothers and mates. And she had less human contact.

To test how well the teams responded to human gestures, the researchers hid food in one of two bowls, then gave each dog or wolf pup a guide to help find the food.

In some experiments, the researchers pointed and stared in the direction of hiding the food, and in others, they placed a small wooden block next to the correct spot—a gesture the pups had not seen before—to guide them where the reward was hidden.

According to the team, the results were astounding; Puppies as young as 8 weeks old understood where to go even with no specific training, and were twice as likely to get their traps right as wolf puppies of the same age, despite spending much more time interacting with humans.

It's not about which species are "smarter," Salomons adds. Dogs and wolfhound puppies have proven to be equally adept animals on tests of other cognitive abilities, such as memory and impulse control, that involve getting around transparent obstacles to get food. But only when it came to the puppies' human gesture-reading skills, the differences seemed clear in favor of the dogs compared to the wolf dog puppies.

Further tests showed that puppies were 30 times more likely to approach a stranger than were wolf puppies.

Salomons noted that wolfhound puppies in this study were bred with far more human interaction than dogs, so the results indicate that puppies' social skills are innate, not merely acquired through experience.

She continues: This evidence supports the hypothesis that the process of domestication, through attraction to humans, has altered the social development of dogs and led to the enhancement of cooperative communicative abilities. This knowledge is important; Because understanding how dogs' minds connect can help us learn to communicate with them better and work together as a stronger team.

According to the team, "This study reinforces the evidence that the social genius of dogs is the product of domestication, and it is this ability that makes dogs wonderful service animals, something they are actually born with and ready to perform."

“Like many babies,” Salomons says, dogs intuitively understand that when people point to them, they are trying to tell them something. Dogs have an innate ability to understand that we are communicating with them and trying to cooperate with them, whereas wolf pups do not.

About their future steps, Salomons says: The team will study the cognitive development path of young dogs in more detail, and we are working on a longitudinal study in which we map the mood and performance on social and non-social cognitive tasks in dogs from 8 weeks to 20 weeks of age, to see how these different elements develop Over time, they interact with each other.