Dogs are well known for their keen ability to engage with subtle human cues, like following hand signals, or immediately recognising when someone is talking to them. But whether they are born with these talents, or learn over time remained a fuzzy area. A new study published on Thursday in current biology found that genetics play an outsized role in canines interative skills with people.
Emily Bray, a researcher at the University of Arizona and the paper’s lead author, told AFP that a keybtest scientists use is to see how well animals comprehend human finger pointing gestures.
some argued that these traits arose as a result of domestication, while others believed that since dogs live in close contact with humans they kind of have a front row seat to all our interactions .
To resolve this question, Bray and colleagues with Canine companions, a service dog organization that provided them 375 goldadors, labradors and golden retrievers. Over the course of a few years, the team ranba set of tests on the pups when they were bjust eight weeks old and still living with their littermates rather than humans. In one a puppy would enter an area where a treat was available under one upturned cup but not another. Bray initiated the test. The pup chose the right cup 67% of the time. Another test involoved Bray placing small box next to the container with the treats and the pups were successful in understanding the clue 72% of the time. The performance did not increase significantly over repeated experiments, reinforcing that the skills are inate.
To exclude the possibility the pups were relying on their sense of smell, the team ran an experiment where Bray remained motionless and the pups were left to search for themselves. In this test, they where successful only half the time
not all the pups were asvadept as one another, and a statistical analysis showed that genetic factors accounted for 43% of the variation in ability between the pups comparable to the genetic basis for inteligence in humans.