Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Dr. Dominique Autier-DÃ©rian, who led the research along with colleagues, performed the first study to test dogs’ ability to discriminate between species and form a “dog” category in spite of the variability within the dog species.
Previous research has shown that in some species, individuals are able to recognize more easily, or are more attracted by images of, individuals belonging to their own species than those belonging to another species.
The team studied this among domestic dogs, which have the largest morphological variety among all species. There are over 400 pure breeds of dogs that have been registered.
Researchers explored whether this huge diversity among domestic dogs presented a challenge for dogs being able to recognize their species, when confronted with other species.
The team showed nine pet dogs pictures of faces from various dog breeds and cross-breeds on a computer screen for the study. They simultaneously showed these faces of dogs, along with faces of other animal species, including human faces and wild animal faces. The dogs were shown more than 144 pairs of pictures to select from during the study.
Authors of the study observed whether the dogs were able to discriminate any type of dog from other species, and could group all dogs together, regardless of breed, into a single category.
Results from the study show that dogs are able to form a visual category of dog faces, and group pictures of very different dogs into a single category, despite the large diversity domestic dog breeds offer. All nine dogs in the study were able to group all the images of dogs within the same category.
“The fact that dogs are able to recognize their own species visually, and that they have great olfactory discriminative capacities, insures that social behavior and mating between different breeds is still potentially possible,” the authors wrote. “Although humans have stretched the Canis familiaris species to its morphological limits, its biological entity has been preserved.”
Back in November, redOrbit reported about how a team from the University of Lincoln found that dogs learn to associate word with objects in different ways than humans. The researchers said that although a dog might bring back the right object once asked, he thinks of the object differently than the human does.
“Where shape matters for us, size or texture matters more for your dog,” these authors wrote in the journal PLOS ONE. “This study shows for the first time that there is a qualitative difference in word comprehension in the dog compared to word comprehension in humans.”