Dogs are as bright as two-year-old children, at least when it comes to working out how to solve a simple puzzle.
That’s the fascinating conclusion of a new study by a team of Hungarian researchers. The team conducted a test in which a treat was hidden in a brown plastic flower pot. To help them find the treats, a group of 15 dogs - mostly around five years of age - and 24 children - 13 two-year-olds and 11 three-year-olds - were given various physical signals by the researchers. When they were shown pointed fingers, arms, legs and elbows the dogs and the children spotted where the treats were hidden. But more subtle clues were only understood by the three-year-old children. “Because of their evolutionary and developmental history, dogs are sensitive to the human signals,” said Gabriella Lakatos, lead author of the study and a research assistant in the department of ethology at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.
There were two other intriguing conclusions. Firstly, the dog’s ancient ancestor, the wolf, didn’t respond in the same way when tested and ignored all signals.
Secondly, dogs get better at following and obeying the signals as they get older which contrasts with children, especially when they reach their teenage years. Then they either ignore or do the opposite of what they are being told to do!
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