Dogs seem to understand human requests

Dogs seem to understand human requests

Border collies go beyond basic fetching and retrieve specific toys based on their owners' commands.
May 26, 2009
By staff

Your clients may brag about their dogs’ fetching skills and ability to understand their commands. But those clients may actually be underestimating their pooches’ intelligence, according to a new study.

German researchers worked with border collies that seemed to understand commands to retrieve a certain toy when shown a full-size or miniature replica of the toy. Even a photograph of the toy worked with some dogs.

The researchers studied five border collies: three trained to fetch objects and two untrained dogs. To test the dogs, a researcher put eight dog toys on the floor of a room in the owner’s home, then joined the owner and the dog in an adjacent room. The owner then requested a particular toy by showing the dog a replica, saying “bring it here.”

The trained dogs nearly always fetched toys that corresponded to full-size and miniature replicas. The untrained dogs initially struggled with the task, but improved in subsequent rounds of testing. In a separate experiment, two of the three trained dogs successfully retrieved a particular toy after viewing a photograph of the toy.

And these dogs seem to be unique in their ability to fetch so specifically. Chimps, dolphins, and other animals have had difficulty retrieving objects after being shown replicas of those objects, even after many trials.

According to researcher Juliane Kaminski, the results show that dogs may understand people more than was previously thought. “The most reasonable interpretation of dogs’ success in the replica tasks is that they understood that by showing a replica, a human was trying to communicate something to them,” she says.

Hot topics on dvm360

Dog of Dallas Ebola patient will not be euthanized, authorities say

Health officials have quarantined and will monitor dog and amid concerns surrounding deadly virus.

Video: How to perform a belt-loop gastropexy

Prevent GDV in your at-risk patients with this simple technique.

Stretch your skills to earn more in veterinary practice

Finding new tasks could be the key to generating more income for your practice—and boosting your pay.

Veterinary community stunned by Sophia Yin's unexpected death

Prominent veterinary behaviorist died of suicide Sept. 28.

Study shows sustained salary slump for veterinary support staff

Since 2009, technicians paid by the hour have experienced a bump in pay, but pay for other team members has stayed stagnant, according to data from the 2014 Firstline Career Path Study. Here’s a look at changes in team pay from 2009 to 2013.