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The Ruff Report: Dogs, Safety and Behavior


Your dog really is clever enough to outsmart you

Dogs apparently are clever enough to recognize when humans are watching them, so many of our pets outsmart us by patiently waiting until we are not looking before they participate in mischievous behavior, a study has found.

Dogs, who have much better nighttime vision than humans, wait to perform their most mischievous deeds - like stealing food - under the cover of darkness, according to Juliane Kaminski, a psychology professor at the University of Portsmouth in England, who conducted the study.

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When a human forbids a dog from taking food, dogs are four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lit room, suggesting they take into account what the human can or cannot see, the research showed.

The results of these tests suggest that dogs are deciding it’s safer to steal the food when the room is dark because they understand something of the human’s perspective,” Ms. Kaminski states in a media release.

The research, published in the journal Animal Cognition, is the first study to examine if dogs differentiate between different levels of light when they are developing strategies on whether to steal food.
 
That’s incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can’t see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective,” Ms. Kaminski said.

Ms. Kaminski ran experiments in varied light conditions. In each test, a dog was forbidden by a human from taking the food. When the room was dark, the dogs took more food and took it more quickly than when the room was lit. The tests involved many variables to rule out that dogs were basing their decisions on simple associative rules, for example, that dark means food. There is no evidence on how well dogs can see in the dark, but the results of this research show dogs can differentiate between light and dark. In total, 42 female and 42 male domestic dogs age 1 or older took part in the tests.
 
The research is an incremental step in our understanding the ability of dogs to think and understand. This information may help those who work with dogs, including police, vision-impaired people, those who use gun dogs and those who have dogs as pets.

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Many earlier research papers have found that dogs have the ability to interpret a human’s eyes as an important signal when deciding how to behave. They respond more willingly to attentive humans rather than inattentive ones.

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