Science News – Are Dogs Smarter than you think ?
European researchers have discovered evidence of an advanced mental ability in canines; one that was previously thought to be specific only to humans!
A behavior known as “selective imitation” is a method of learning that brings meaning and cultural context to specific actions. In selective imitation, observers (usually infants) differentiate between two types of behaviors. There are acts of necessity (I can’t use my hands right now because they’re otherwise occupied, so I’ll use my elbow to open the door lever) and there are acts of inefficient preference (even though I can use my hands which are not presently occupied, I like to open the door with my elbow). When human infants observe the two behaviors, they will adopt the latter skill (i.e., the latter behavior is “selected”).
In a recent study, dogs learned in just the same way. Dogs watched a demonstrator dog pulling a rod with a paw, rather than with the mouth. When the demonstrator dog carried a ball in its mouth, the actions were not adopted by the observer dogs. But, when the demonstrator dog had no object in its mouth and pulled the lever with a paw, the observer dogs began to adopt the behavior.
Certainly, further research is warranted in this area, but researchers are excited by these results which seem to indicate that our canine companions may have more complex learning abilities that previously believed.