Dogs react to communication like children

Many dog owners treat their canines as if they were young children. Their pets' reactions are surprisingly similar to those of young children. Hungarian researchers have confirmed this experimentally.
Study results appeared online in early January in the journal Current Biology. According to the researcher, dogs resemble children – specifically, children 6 months to two years of age – mainly in terms of reactions to verbal communication and eye contact. Adult dogs were shown a video in which a woman said, “Hi dog” in a high-pitched voice while making eye contact. In another version the woman repeated her words, but in a low-pitched voice and avoiding eye contact. Each dog’s reactions were registered using eye-tracking techniques. The dogs watched the woman longer if she first made contact with her eyes and her voice. Earlier studies had shown this kind of reactions to people in babies and young children.

The researchers realise that they have now determined scientifically something that many people already know. It is, however, the first time that the social skills of dogs have been studied using eye-tracking techniques.