Have you ever glanced over at your dog only to see that he has already been watching you? It may happen more often that we realize. A new study out of Argentina provides evidence that dogs carefully watch our interactions not only when we are interacting with them directly, but also our interactions with other people. The study determined that dogs are able to watch people's interactions with each other and use the information to figure out who had better treats in hand.
The researchers tested the dogs by having a man ask two women for their cornflakes. The two women had the same cornflakes, but the man acted as though one woman's cornflakes were delicious, and that the other woman's cornflakes were terrible. The dogs that chose to go up to one of the women tended to prefer the women who they perceived to have the better cornflakes.
Studies like this one confirm what dog lovers and dog professionals already suspected--that dogs are incredibly attuned to our every emotion, movement, and signal. The extent of their perception of our world is still being discovered, and this study is particularly interesting in that we can see dogs how dogs monitor our interactions with the people around us. It's why positive training is so effective. Dogs are constantly looking to understand what we want from them and are evolving constantly to cope in our domestic world. When you use a dog's cognitive ability to your advantage by reinforcing good behaviors and showing him what you want without the use of force or intimidation, the results can be incredible.
If you want to learn more about how your dog thinks and perceives the world, check out the dog games by our friends at Dognition.