Within the world of working dogs (perhaps not unlike in your practice), certain varieties are better suited to functioning in close contact with people and comprehending signals than others. A new study shows that particular dog breeds are more adept at understanding the human gesture of pointing.
The journal Behavioral and Brain Functions recently presented a set of findings revealing these marked differences. A team at Eötvös University in Hungary, studying the communication capacities of various breeds, determined that bird dogs and sheep dogs—animals that work in close visual contact with humans—fared far better at interpreting pointing gestures than did livestock guard dogs or sled dogs—breeds which often work without direct supervision. The researchers also found that dogs with centrally-placed eyes and short snouts more easily made sense of such gestures, versus breeds with wide-set eyes and long noses.
Researcher Marta Gàcsi adds that studying the intricate communication relationship between humans and canines may actually give clues to the evolution of human communication itself, noting that dogs have been domesticated, and therefore close to and involved with human interaction, for more than 10,000 years.
Gàcsi further adds that the study reinforces an important point: Those carrying out behavioral research on dogs should pay close attention to choice of breed and not make assumptions based strictly on genetics.