The dog understands our gestures. This ability is rarely found in the animal kingdom. Not even chimpanzees can do it. The closest relative of dogs, the wolf, cannot do that either. A new study from Duke University looked at the problem. Domestication changed the dog’s consciousness.
Change my mind
You have been communicating with us for more than 14,000 years. And they did something strange in the dogs’ minds. They have what is called the theory of mind or mental faculties. They derive from this how people think and feel in certain situations. The process of approaching people not only changed their appearance. Domestication changed the dog’s consciousness.
One study compared 44 dog pups and 37 wolf pups. The ages ranged from 5 to 18 weeks. The wolf cubs were first genetically tested. They wanted to make sure they weren’t a wolf-dog hybrid. The wolf cubs were then raised in close interaction with humans. They were hand-fed, slept in beds with their guardians, and spent all of their time with people for a few days after they were born. On the contrary, the puppies lived with their mother and siblings. You communicated much less with people.
Next, the animals’ intelligence level was rated. During the test, the researchers hid a treat between several bowls. Then they gave a clue to each dog or wolf pup in order to find it.
The results were amazing. Even without special training, puppies knew where to go by the age of eight weeks. And they were twice as likely to be fine as wolf cubs of their own age.
Many of the boys did well on their first test. They didn’t need any training, they just understood people’s gestures. None of the 26 human-raised wolf cubs succeeded in this. The results of the work were published in the journal Current Biology.
They did just as well on tests of other cognitive skills. For example, when they had to overcome transparent obstacles to get food. But the boys’ ability to understand people was superior. Dog puppies were also 30 times more likely to approach a stranger.
The lead author of the study is Brian Hare. Their work provides some of the most compelling evidence for the so-called “domestication hypothesis”: the social aspect of dogs comes from domestication that changed them forever.