26 April 2012

Dogs Can Be Manipulated Through Human Cues

There are two ways to communicate with a dog; a command and a cue.

A command is a simple word or expression that the dog is trained to understand. It generally tells the dog to perform a specific action.

A cue is more subtle. It is a prompt, hint or suggestion that affects the dogs behavior in a given situation. Pointing, looking at something or even a sound can be interpreted by the dog as a cue from the owner. A cue is a signal to which the dog interprets in his or her own way. Dogs sometimes communicates to the owner through verbal cues such as wimpering, wagging its tail, and scratching.

Dogs communicate in many ways with each other, using verbal cues, body language and facial expressions. They also try to communicate with humans using these methods. Humans, of course, communicate with dogs with commands and phrases. Dogs can learn hundreds of human sounds but they can't string them together.

Dogs turn down extra food if a human provides the right cues

Dogs can be manipulated to choose against their preference by human cues, opting to turn down extra food in order to follow the human's choice, according to results published Apr. 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The work was led by Sarah Marshall-Pescini of the University of Milan.

Video: Verbal Cues

In the study, the researchers offered dogs two different food serving sizes. In the absence of any outside influence, the dogs were unsurprisingly much more likely to choose the larger of the two. When a human expressed more interest in the smaller serving, though, for example by handling the food in the smaller serving, the dogs were more likely to choose the smaller serving.

This effect was not seen if the human expressed interest in the small serving simply by approaching the plate without handling it, highlighting the complexity of the dogs' response to different human behaviors. These results provide further insight into dogs' social bias and their sensitivity to human cues.


Public Library of Science
Do Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) Make Counterproductive Choices Because They Are Sensitive to Human Ostensive Cues?
University of Milan
Dogs Understand Better Than Chimpanzees When Humans Point To Something
Dogs Know When We Want To Talk To Them
Obese Dogs Find Better Quality of Life After Weight Loss