Dogs Respond to Human Communication Similarly to Human Babies

Erno Teglas, a research fellow in CEU’s Cognitive Development Center, has conducted research demonstrating that dogs follow human communication signals in a similar way to human infants. The resulting paper, written in collaboration with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Eotvos Lorand University, appeared in the Jan. 5, 2012, issue of the scientific journal Current Biology.

In the experiment, two types of videos were presented. In one type, Teglas showed dogs videos in which a person looks directly at the dog while speaking in a high-pitched voice, then looks away to a nearby object. In the other type, Teglas showed the same dogs videos in which a person addresses the dog in a low-pitch voice without eye contact, then looks away to a nearby object. Teglas found that the dogs followed the person's gaze only after making eye contact and being addressed in high- pitch voice. The results of this research closely match results for six-month-old infants, proving that—like human babies—dogs are receptive to human communicative signals.

This was the first time that an eye-tracking device was used to study social cognition in dogs. The scientific community's enthusiasm about the use of this technique suggests that it opens a new window for understanding non-human minds.

Read an abstract of Teglas’ research results in Current Biology here:


Photo: CEU/Daniel Vegel