Dogs may not be great at the “What card am I holding?” game – but according to a new study, they can usually tell what people are thinking. Especially when it has to do with their dinner.
Whether you’ve got a perfectly-coiffed pure breed or a mangy mutt, your dog has always been your closest companion. When you come home from work, he’s so deliriously happy that he covers you in wet, sloppy kisses. When you watch TV on the couch, he cuddles up on your lap, eager for a back scratch. And when he knows it’s time for dinner, he’ll stare into your eyes with that adorable gaze you just can’t resist.
But does your dog really care about you, or is his own comfort his only concern?
Well, science has finally confirmed what most dog owners have believed for centuries: Your canine companion can read your mind.
Okay, so he may not be particularly great at the “What card am I holding?” game – but according to new research from Britain’s University of Canterbury, dogs have a “theory of mind,” which means that they have some ability to understand what the people around them are thinking, based on clues in their environment.
In a study, researchers guided a group of dogs through a series of “food-finding” experiments. Humans in the trials would either hide their eyes as the dog’s food was hidden, or observe where the researchers placed the food. In each instance, the dogs gravitated towards the people who knew where the food was.
“What this showed was that the dogs were able to take the perspective of the humans involved in the experiment, and attribute states of knowledge to those people,” said lead researcher Michelle Maginnity.
So there’s no need to feel silly when you rant and rave to your dog about a frustrating day at work – by the sounds of it, he feels your pain. And if you want to wallow over a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt, he’ll consider it his civic duty to help you out (by licking it clean, of course).