dogs_humans_think_alikeStudies into dog behaviors usually reveal interesting insights, some of them dogs owners already know but some of them can surprise even us.  This is something that I’ve seen but never really thought about and now that I’ve found out more, certain things really “click” for me.

Physiologically speaking, humans and chimps are closer to each other based on DNA but based on a recent study dogs serve as a better model for understanding human behavior.  Researcher believe that 10-20,000 years of domestication and adapting to the same conditions have led to these similarities.

Cooperation, attachment to people, understanding human verbal and non-verbal communications, and the ability to imitate are just a handful of the social behaviors we share with dogs. They might even think like us at times too, according to the paper, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Advances in the Study of Behavior. (Discovery Channel)

Jozsef Topal, who is based at the Institute for Psychology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and is one of the world’s leading canine researchers, is the lead author of the study and he says, “that shared environment has led to the emergence of functionally shared behavioral features in dogs and humans and, in some cases, functionally analogous underlying cognitive skills.”

“In my view, pet dogs can be regarded in many respects as ‘preverbal infants in canine’s clothing,’” he said, adding that many dog-owner relationships mirror human parental bonds with children.

One of the studies is based on a 16-month-old child and a mature dog being taught certain actions and verbal commands and observing.

The actions included turning around in circles, vocalizing, jumping up, jumping over a horizontal rod, putting an object into a container, carrying an object to the owner or parent, and pushing a rod to the floor.

The dogs “performed surprisingly well and at a comparable level to the 16-month-old child,” Topal said.

Multiple studies mentioned by the authors also support that dogs exhibit all three primary types of social behavior that humans evolved when they split from chimpanzees 6 million years ago. The first is “sociality,” or organization into groups where members are loyal to each other and display reduced aggression.

The second is synchronization, where following shared social rules and even taking on each others emotions helps to strengthen group unity. The researchers, for example, say that, “when approached by an unfamiliar person showing definite signs of friendliness and threat in succession, dogs show rapid changes of emotional and behavioral response in accordance with the human’s attitude.”

The video also shows some very interesting results.

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Marc Hauser, a professor and director of the Cognitive Evolution Lab at Harvard University, fully agrees that dogs offer a good model for understanding human behavior.

“The dog has come into its own as a great new model for understanding the mind in general, and the evolution of the human mind in particular,” Hauser told Discovery News. “Not only have we lived with dogs for thousands of years, but because of this relationship, we have acted as an agent of selection to modify aspects of their behavior and minds.”

“Now, perhaps for the first time, students of animal behavior, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy and veterinary medicine will unite to provide deeper insights into the evolution of dogs and the evolution of humans,” he added. “I for one am very excited about this opportunity, which is why we have followed the lead of other labs, and started our own dog lab!”

Now, I’ve noticed my dogs mimicking me and actually played games with them to see what they could do. I actually never really put alot of thought into it, just thought it was cute and amusing. I never underestimate how smart dogs can be but studies like this one and other really open your eyes into the depths of a dog’s understanding.

So, what about you, ever notice something like this with your own pooch?

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