Your pet pooch behaves more logically in your absence

November 14th, 2007 - 1:59 am ICT by admin  
Lead author Anes Erdohegyi says that dogs display a type of logic called “inferential reasoning” when not influenced by their masters.

Erdohegyi, a researcher in the Department of Ethology at Budapest’s Eotvos Lorand University and colleagues recruited 42 adult pet dogs and their owners for the study. The only criterion for selection was that the dogs had to be “highly motivated to play with a toy.”

In the first experiment, the researchers placed a ball under a small plastic flowerpot. They then put a larger flowerpot over the smaller one. An identical flowerpot set, minus the ball, was also used.

A researcher lifted the various pots in front of the dog. At times, the experimenter also gazed at the ball-less flowerpot set, or moved it, and then made eye contact with the dog. While the dogs coveted the ball toy, they usually chose the set without the ball, simply because the experimenter showed interest in it.

The researchers repeated the experiment, the next time using flowerpots or containers that could be lifted remotely with strings without any perceivable human cues. When shown the set without the ball, the dogs immediately made the right choice by going for the other set since, by process of elimination, it had to contain the ball.

According to Erdohegyi, the experiment showed that our canine pals developed “inferential reasoning” when not influenced by the experimenters, meaning they made deductions and solved problems immediately, as opposed to acting on training or copying the behaviors of others.

“Other non-human species, like chimpanzees and grey parrots, also have this skill, which is very useful in complex social situations and can be regarded as an evolutionary adaptation,” Discovery News quoted Erdohegyi, as saying.

“Dogs, like human babies, are very sensitive to human communicative cues. This ability evolved to recognize the relevant information in teaching situations,” she added.

Josep Call, a noted animal expert and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, thinks the new paper “is an imaginative study that challenges the idea that dogs are incapable of inferential reasoning.”

The study will appear in the journal Animal Behavior. (ANI)

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