Study suggests dogs able to follow direction of human voice

May 07, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
In this experiment, the dogs know that food is hidden in one of these boxes - but they don't know in which one. To find the tasty snack, they are following the human voice. Credit: MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has devised an experiment that suggests that dogs are able to respond to the direction in which human voice moves. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the team describes their experiments with multiple dogs and what their findings suggest.

Dogs and humans have a special relationship going back thousands of years. Scientists believe that over the course of all those years, it's possible that have learned to communicate with people and vice-versa, in ways that aren't fully understood. One example was a prior study that found that dogs are able to follow a person's gaze, or in many instances a pointed finger. In this latest effort, the researchers sought to determine if dogs are also able to make inferences based solely on the direction in which human communications are traveling.

The experiment involved one human and one dog (at a time). The human kneeled behind a wood plank while the dog sat restrained behind a line several feet away, facing the wood plank. Between the two was a red curtain that served to prevent the dog from seeing the actions of the person. As the experiment began, the person stood up and showed the dog a food treat, instructing it to pay attention. The person then crouched down behind the plank as the curtain was drawn, grabbed one of two black smell-proof boxes and placed the food treat inside of it.

The boxes were then set at the edges of the plank, within sight of the dog when the curtain was opened. The human, still hidden behind the plank, changed position to directly face one of the boxes and spoke encouraging words to the dog. Then, the dog was released to fetch the treat. Adult dogs went straight to the correct box on average 7.6 times out of 12. With puppies used to being around people, the average was even better, 8.1 out of 12 tries. Puppies that had not been around people, however, did no better than chance.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The results suggest that the dogs were able to discern the direction that the was traveling and to understand the connection between it and the source of the treat, a feat that chimpanzees and wolves are not able to replicate.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.


Explore further: Does your dog love you?

More information: Federico Rossano, Marie Nitzschner, Michael Tomasello, Domestic dogs and puppies can use human voice direction referentially, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 7 May 2014. rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098/rspb.2013.3201

Press release

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Does your dog love you?

Feb 17, 2014

University of Adelaide researchers are studying the interactions between puppies and their mothers as a first step in being able to analyse the relationship between dog and owner.

Teaching young wolves new tricks

Jan 31, 2014

Although wolves and dogs are closely related, they show some striking differences. Scientists from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have undertaken experiments ...

Human and dog brains both have dedicated 'voice areas'

Feb 20, 2014

The first study to compare brain function between humans and any nonprimate animal shows that dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains, just as people do. Dog brains, like those of people, are also ...

Dogs know a left-sided wag from a right

Oct 31, 2013

You might think a wagging tail is a wagging tail, but for dogs there is more to it than that. Dogs recognize and respond differently when their fellow canines wag to the right than they do when they wag to ...

Recommended for you

Wolves susceptible to yawn contagion

1 hour ago

Wolves may be susceptible to yawn contagion, according to a study published August 27, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Teresa Romero from The University of Tokyo, Japan, and colleagues.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Rosser
4 / 5 (4) May 07, 2014
Really? What a waste of research money. Anyone with a dog could have told you the same thing. Come on people, do something constructive with your funds.
Lex Talonis
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2014
Study suggests dogs able to follow direction of human voice..

Fuck I HATE the lame brain articles...

"the study suggests" - Either it DOES or it DOES NOT.

And like the former contributor.....

I have cats and a chicken - with whom I have running conversations....

If the chicken is out of food, as soon as I go into the kitchen - the room nearest the outside, it will hear me, and then talk in a certain way that lets me know it's out of food and I can steer it around the yard with hand signals...

The cats are the same - we talk too....

Sure the conversations are mostly about coming inside and going outside, or the shit tray needs cleaning or it's time for dinner etc....

But we have OVERT and very clear communication - orally and visually...

Ever watched "Sheep Dog Trials"?

What a fucking idiot study. What a fucking idiot article.
Iochroma
not rated yet May 07, 2014
And how did they address the fact that the dog could smell which box had the treat?
kelman66
not rated yet May 07, 2014
And how did they address the fact that the dog could smell which box had the treat?


By the fact that they didnt get it right 100% of the time?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 08, 2014
And how did they address the fact that the dog could smell which box had the treat?

Read the article:
The person then crouched down behind the plank as the curtain was drawn, grabbed one of two black smell-proof boxes and placed the food treat inside of it.


Note the words 'smell-proof'.

Also note:
Puppies that had not been around people, however, did no better than chance.

Which would not happen if they could smell it.