As a pet owner, we undoubtedly believe that we engage in two-way communication with our pets. Often going as far as carrying on conversations with them. This has always been more logical with a dog than, say, a lizard. However, science hasn’t necessarily supported the idea. For years it has been clear that canine animals are able to take commands, but can they talk back? In other words, are dogs able to engage in a conversation of sorts with a human counterpart?
A new study recently published in the July 2018 edition of the veterinary journal Animal Cognition says yes! The researchers studied 37 pet dogs in their home environment and found 19 “reference gestures” that dogs use to communicate with humans. Further, they found that these gestures start as early as five weeks of age!
What is a reference gesture? It is a mode of communication. For example, if a dog wants something, she will establish eye contact with the human, look at the object they want, and then reestablish eye contact. The fascinating thing about this gesture is that it is very similar to how a pre-language child communicates.
The authors of the study stated that “The prevalence of referential communication in dogs suggests that the ability is not as rare as previously thought but could be a common aspect of dog–human communication. Dogs can interpret and understand human-given referential gestures with ease and the evidence from our study suggests humans are also able to successfully interpret and understand canine-given referential gestures.”
Dog lovers have known it forever, now science confirms it, dogs and humans have a very special, unbelievably close relationship in the animal world.