Does it ever seem like your dog knows what you're thinking? Chances are you're not imagining things.
A growing body of evidence, most recently a study reported in the journal Learning & Behavior, points to the fact that dogs are not only able to read human body language and behavior – they can also become adept at using it to their advantage.
"Dogs and (human-raised) wolves are capable of distinguishing between a person looking at them, someone who's paying attention and someone who's not," said Monique A.R. Udell, lead author of a study published recently in the journal Learning & Behavior. "They're more likely to beg (for food) from someone paying attention to them."
Results of another recent study conclude dogs have the cognitive developmental potential of a 2 year-old child. The average dog is able to learn the meanings of 165 words.
Levels of sensitivity to body language seem to vary depending on how much time dogs or wolves spend with their human 'packs.'
Shelter dogs and wolves that haven't spent a lot of time observing the daily behaviors of humans don't pick up on all the cues family pets do. From this observation researchers concluded that specific life experiences carry significant weight in terms of a dog's learned ability to read human signals and behavior.
According to Ms. Udell, these study findings are "important because previous research suggested that something happened to dogs during genetic domestication that made them begin to think like humans. This shows that wolves are capable, if reared with humans, of (picking up human cues)."