Cognition

Should I stay or should I go?

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Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 430
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6311.430-a

Dogs understand our gestures perhaps even better than our words.

PHOTO: TIERFOTOAGENTUR/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Much recent research on communication between dogs and humans has shown that dogs understand both our verbal and gestural commands, a fact well known to dog owners. Looking at working water rescue dogs, D'Aniello et al. asked which of these two types of commands has priority, especially if conflicting signals are given. Dogs responded better to gestural than to verbal commands, when given separately. Generally, priority was also given to gestures when conflicting commands were made, though females were better at responding to gestures, whereas males responded better to words. Interestingly, when asked both to “stay” and “come,” dogs tended to choose to come, especially when the handler was walking away, suggesting that they sometimes chose the option that better coincided with their own choice.

Anim. Cogn. 10.1007/s10071-016-1010-5 (2016).

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