The ability to communicate with humans is innate in dogs thanks to domestication

According to a recent study, the ability to communicate with humans has become innate in dogs through domestication.

Dogs know how to communicate with humans. They are able to interpret our gestures and indications, the words we use, our intonation, or even our facial expressions. They can also let us know what they want or feel. These abilities are much less developed in wolves. But is this due to the 14,000 years of dog domestication? Or is it acquired during education? This is the question that researchers asked themselves during a comparative study between dogs and wolves.

Illustration of the article: The ability to communicate with humans is innate in dogs thanks to domestication

© Illustrative photo

A study conducted on puppies and cubs

To carry out their study, the results of which were published in the journal Current Biology, the scientists worked with puppies and cubs. From birth, the “roles” of these animals have been reversed. In other words, the cubs immediately had a lot of contact with humans, while the puppies had as little as possible.

In concrete terms, 37 wolves received human attention 24 hours a day during their first two months of life. The trainers even slept with them, on outdoor mattresses. On the other side, 44 Retriever puppies stayed with their mother and siblings during the same period. The obligatory human visits were of very short duration.

Illustration of the article: The ability to communicate with humans is innate in dogs thanks to domestication

© Illustrative photo

Comparative tests have made it possible to evaluate their communication with humans

After these two months, the animals were all tested under the same conditions. One of the experiments involved finding hidden treats. A human indicated with his finger the direction to follow to find the treats, or even placed a small block of wood next to the hiding place, to attract the attention of the animal. The result was striking: the dogs made much more use of human cues than the wolves. They were twice as likely to follow a pointing finger or a block of wood, as reported ScienceNews.

Illustration of the article: The ability to communicate with humans is innate in dogs thanks to domestication

© Roberta Ryan

Additionally, puppies made eye contact with humans for about 4 seconds, compared to just 1.47 for cubs. This means that dogs were trying to communicate and seek help from humans, where wolves ignored them, as if they were part of the landscape.

Communication with humans is innate in dogs.

The result of the experiment is all the more surprising when we know that the puppies had had very little human contact, whereas the wolf cubs had rubbed shoulders with them permanently. This shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the ability to communicate with humans is not acquired during education, but rather innate in dogs. This faculty has therefore been anchored by thousands of years of domestication.

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