Inspired living

Dog talk


It can be a nauseating scenario: you visit a friend at home, a friend that you previously thought to be relatively sane and mostly sober, only to witness them coo and utter sweet nothings to their dog. You are asked if you don’t just think their pooch is the most wonderful thing since sliced bread and you have to fabricate some deception to the fact that the slobbering fiend does have a shiny coat. If you have been in that situation and found yourself deciding that your friendship with the dog-owner was not so strong after all, then a new study might give you pause to rethink.

In the new study researchers presented dogs with video recordings of a person turning to look at a plastic pot. In one video the person looked directly at the dog and in a high-pitched voice said, “Hi dog!” before looking at the pot. In another video the person gave a low-pitched “Hi dog” and avoided contact before looking at the pot. During the study an eye-tracker captured the dog’s reactions.

Dogs were more likely to follow along and look at the pot when the person made eye contact and thereby expressed an intention to communicate.

This study fits with increasing evidence showing that dogs use non-verbal cues like eye contact and direct addressing to make sense of what is being said. The researchers said that a dog’s social and cognitive functioning is similar to that of six-month to two-year old human.

No wonder then that many humans do treat their pet pooch like another child. In many respects a dog is like a young toddler in the house. So maybe that dog-owning friend wasn’t such a freak after all. Why don’t you pick up the phone and reignite a friendship? And if Fido answers, then just hang up.


Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.