January 6, 2012

Dogs Like Eye Contact too

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Many people consider their dogs as a member of their family; often times treating their furry friends like one of their own kids. "Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs´ social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a 6-month to a 2-year-old child," Jozef Topal, of the Hungarian Academy of Science was quoted as saying.  Just like human infants, dogs pick up not only on words, but they are also sensitive to cues that signal the communicative intent. Those cues include verbal addressing and eye contact.

Topal´s and his team initiated the first study to utilize eye-tracking techniques to study dogs´ social skills. He and his team presented the dogs with a video recording of a person turning toward one of two identical plastic pots while an eye tracker captured information on the dogs´ reactions. In one condition, the person first looked straight at the dog, addressing it in a high-pitched voice with "Hi dog!" In the second condition, the person gave only a low-pitched "Hi dog" while avoiding eye contact. The data showed that the dogs were more likely to follow along and look at the pot when the person first expressed an intention to communicate.

"By following the eye movements of the dogs, we are able to get a firsthand look at how their minds are actually working, "Topal said. "We think that the use of this new eye-tracking technology has many potential surprises in store."

SOURCE: Current Biology, January 2012