Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle

Your Dog is Watching! Modelling Behavior in Dogs

Who knew that dogs could actually copy each other? Scientists have always said that dogs can’t learn by “modelling.” That is, they thought dogs couldn’t see other dogs doing something and then copy that behavior. Turns out they do that, and they do it in context! If they watch another dog going after a treat with his paw (rather than the mouth), they only copy that behavior if it looked like the dog had a reason they couldn’t see. If the dog had a ball in his mouth, they wouldn’t copy, maybe thinking, “well, he would’ve used his mouth, but it was full.” But if the dog had no ball in his mouth, they seemed to be thinking, “hmmm…Fido did it with his paw – must be a good idea!” They would paw at the food rather than following their instinct to go for it with the mouth. Now, we have no idea what they’re actually thinking, but this selective modelling is pretty amazing stuff. More info is in this Washington Post article from June. Amazing! So be careful about digging in the garden around Fido…

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