London - Devoted dog owners will often swear that their pet somehow understands them.
And the next time someone tries to tell them they’re imagining it, they have the perfect response – scientists think so too.
They claim that dogs might be able to see things from a human perspective, and make their decisions accordingly.
Researchers found that when a dog was forbidden from taking food, it was more than twice as likely to disobey the command when the room was dark than when it was lit.
This, they say, shows that the pet first considered what a human could see before breaking the rules.
Lead researcher Dr Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth’s department of psychology, said: “That’s incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective. Clearly the dogs take the social situation into account before they take any action.
“Whether or not the human can see the food influences their decision. But whether or not the human is visible in the room didn’t affect their behaviour.
“It suggests the dogs are looking at the food from the human perspective, as well as their own, before acting.”
Previous research found that dogs steal significantly more food when a person’s eyes are closed.
The researchers carried out several experiments in different light conditions involving 42 male and 42 female domestic dogs of various breeds. All were more than one year old. In each test, someone told the dog it couldn’t take the food. But when the room was dark, the dogs were more than twice as likely to steal the food and acted much more quickly, even when the person remained in the room.
The researchers ruled out the possibility that dogs were simply basing their decisions on associative rules, such as dark means food.
But Dr Kaminski added: “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 study was published in the journal Animal Cognition.
* Seven out of ten pet owners claim their dogs get jealous when they hug their partner, a study found.
As a result, many resort to the rather unromantic measure of including their pet in the embrace to pacify them. - Daily Mail