Dogs Are Capable of Eavesdropping!
Dogs can read facial expressions, communicate jealousy, display empathy, and even watch TV, studies have shown. They've picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, experts say.
In particular, "paying attention to us, getting along with us, [and] tolerating us" has led to particular characteristics that often mirror ours, says Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory. (Read more about how dogs evolved in National Geographic magazine.)
Here are a few of the latest studies showing the human side of our canine companions.
Social eavesdropping—or people-watching—is central to human social interactions, since it allows us to figure out who's nice and who's mean.
According to a study published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, our dogs listen in too. (Read "Animal Minds" in National Geographicmagazine.)
In a new study, scientists tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container. The dogs were divided into three groups: helper, non-helper, and control.
In the helper group, the owner requested help from another person, who held the container. In the non-helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who then turned their back without helping. In the control group, the additional person turned his or her back without being asked for help. In all experiments, a third, "neutral" person sat in the room.
In the non-helper group, canines most frequently favored the neutral person's treat, shunning the non-helper. However, in the helper group, the dogs did not favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other. Scientists have previously observed similar results in human infants and tufted capuchin monkeys. (See "Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes.")