Dogs can predict and understand human behaviour better than ever, a new study has found, suggesting future generations of man’s best friend may not need any training at all.
A study by the University of Abertay in Dundee found that a dog’s understanding of our minds is increasingly instinctive, as is the ability to predict the desires and reactions of its human “pack leader”.
The university analysed the behaviour of 24 dogs - some highly trained, some not tutored at all – and found that the level of coaching a dog had received made no difference to its reaction to unspoken commands, such as pointing or nodding for it to change location.
And with selective breeding showing no signs of slowing down, that trend is likely to continue, as more intuitive dogs are encouraged to breed with those of a similar intelligence.
Dr Clare Cunningham, who led the study, said: “We found that training levels didn’t make any difference - no matter how well trained they were, it did not make their ability to pick up cues better or worse.”
She added: “What made the difference was whether they were familiar with the human who was giving the cues… As they get to know particular humans, they pay more attention to them and this may mean they can read and even predict human behaviour with more efficiency as familiarity grows.”
Dr Cunningham went on to say: “If such abilities can be passed on from one generation to the next, then over time we will see them getting better and better and better at predicting human behaviour.”
Concluding the study, which was co-authored by Mari Ramos and published in the Animal Cognition journal, Dr Cunningham added: “Dogs have been selected through the domestication process to accept humans as social partners and as such, are very good at attending to their behaviour”.
She went on: “If such abilities can be passed on from one generation to the next than over time we will see them getting better and better and better at predicting human behaviour.”