A new study has found dogs are better at comprehending situations from a human perspective than previously realized.
Researchers in the UK conducted experiments on 84 dogs and found the animals were capable of modifying their behavior depending on the circumstance of their owners.
For example, dogs were four times more likely to steal food they had been forbidden when the lights were turned off and humans struggled to see.
The authors of the study argued it was “unlikely that the dogs simply forgot that the human was in the room” when the lights went off. Throughout the experiments, variations were used to prevent dogs associating sudden darkness with someone giving them food.
Dr. Juliane Kaminski from the University of Portsmouth, who led the study, said:
“[The study is] incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective.”
The research, published in Animal Cognition, set out to establish whether dogs possess a “flexible understanding” that demonstrates they understand the viewpoint of a human.
The findings could be important in discovering the capabilities of dogs that work closely with humans such as guide dogs for the blind.
Dr. Kaminski adds:
“Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that’s us thinking, not them. These results suggest humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can’t be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others’ minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability.”