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Man's Best Friend New research reveals dogs can't be lied to

It has become increasingly clear that dogs are more intelligent than was once believed, a new researched proofs this.

  • Published:
  play Dog are smarter than we think (Victoria Standen)

The latest research shows they are quick to figure out if these gestures are misleading.

Dogs have been known to be intelligent, but it seems their intelligence have been underrated.

A new research by a team led by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University in Japan revealed this.

The research which was detailed in the journal Animal Cognition, 34 dogs were presented with three rounds of pointing.

In the first round, the experimenters accurately pointed to where food was hidden in a container. But in the second round, they pointed to an empty container.

In the third round, the same experimenter again pointed to the container with food.

But now the dog did not respond to the experimenter's cue. That suggests, say the authors of the study, that the dogs could use their experience of the experimenter to assess whether they were a reliable guide.

After these rounds a new experimenter replicated the first round. Once again, the dogs followed this new person with interest.

The study highlights that dogs like things to be predictable, says John Bradshaw of the University of Bristol in the UK, who was not involved with the research.

As soon as events in their lives become irregular they will look for alternative things to do.

And if they consistently don't know what's going to happen next they can get stressed, aggressive or fearful, he adds. "Dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them often have behavioural disorders."

This last part of the experiment can be explained by the fascination dogs have with anything new: "Dogs are almost information junkies", says Bradshaw, so a new experimenter is "trusted" once more.

The finding comes as no surprise to dog owner Victoria Standen. She owns a collie which is considered to be among the most intelligent breeds.

When out for a walk, the collie will sit at the point of a junction and wait to see which way to go. "I've taken to pointing which direction and after she looks that way, she looks back to me to check it's okay to run off," says Standen.

What's more, if a stranger has proven to be unreliable (and not a food source) her dog is less likely to trust them.

It has become increasingly clear that dogs are more intelligent than was once believed, but their intelligence is very different to ours, says Bradshaw.

"Dogs are very sensitive to human behaviour but they have fewer preconceptions," he says. "They live in the present, they don't reflect back on the past in an abstract way, or plan for the future."

And when they encounter a situation, he adds, they will react to what's there "rather than thinking deeply about what that entails".Dogs then, are clearly not mindlessly listening to us when we gesture which this study provides more evidence for, says Brian Hare who is chief scientific officer at Dognition.

"They evaluate the information we give them based in part on how reliable it is in helping them accomplish their goals. Many family dogs, for instance, will ignore your gesture when you point incorrectly and use their memory to find a hidden treat,” adds Hare.

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