Dogs As Good As Toddlers At Understanding Hand Gestures

A recent study has shown that dogs are as good as human toddlers at understanding some forms of hand gesture.

The research, published in the July 2009 issue of Animal Cognition, was conducted at the University of Budapest by Gabriella Lakatos and her team, and was titled "A comparative approach to dogs’ (Canis familiaris) and human infants’ comprehension of various forms of pointing gestures". They investigated whether human infants, aged 2 and 3 years old, and dogs good comprehend various pointing gestures to locate a hidden object.

The pointing gestures included pointing with fingers, elbows, legs and knees. It was found that while 2 year-old toddlers and dogs could understand arm finger and leg pointing, only 3 year-old infants could understand pointing that used only an elbow or a knee. The study also found that when the index finger was used to point in a direction away from the direction the arm was pointing in, 3 year-old infants could follow the direction implied by the index finger, but that 2 year-olds and dogs would follow only the direction implied by the whole limb.

In other research at the same university and published in the same journal, titled "The effect of development and individual differences in pointing comprehension of dogs", a team led by Marta Gacsi investigated 180 dogs of various ages to determine at what age dogs can begin following human hand gestures. Dogs from 2 months old to adults showed no difference in performance according to age, suggesting that the comprehension of human pointing requires very little learning to fully develop.

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