Does Your Dog Know What You’re Thinking?

(The closest I could come to a dog wearing Karnac the Magnificent's turban.)

Have you ever gotten the feeling that your dog knows what you’re about to do?  A recent study completed by Jozsef Topal of the Institute for Psychological Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences shows that dogs track our eye movements to decide on our intent.

To test his theory, Topal’s colleagues videotaped humans saying “Hi dog!” in a high-pitched voice while looking directly at the dog and others saying “Hi dog” in a low-pitched voice with no eye contact.  The person then looked at one of two identical plastic pots.  They found that when the dog was greeted with eye contact and an enthusiastic tone of voice, the dog was likely to follow the human’s gaze and look at the pot.

It appears that the dog read the eye contact as an invitation to communicate, similar to the way infants interact with caregivers.  It is thought that horses and cats also “read” humans, but perhaps not as intensely, possibly because they have not been domesticated as long as dogs have been.

Topal suggests that dogs “can easily learn to associate even unconscious behavioral cues of their owner with particular consequences,” allowing the dog to “acquire an ability to anticipate the owner’s behavior, and this may give a false impression of mind-reading.”

Food for thought!

Until next time,

Good day, and good dog!


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