Duke Canine Cognition Center

Dogs' Understanding of Communicative Intentions

Our previous research revealed that dogs are more skilled at spontaneously reading human communicative cues (e.g. pointing gestures, etc.) than chimpanzees and other primates. To understand the origins of these skills, I have conducted research with puppies, wolves, New Guinea singing dogs, and chimpanzees.

All of this research suggests that dogs, while cognitively unremarkable in many ways, also possess an unusual ability to read human communicative intentions. Just like children, dogs are highly attuned to our gestures, and they can use this ability in novel situations to flexibly assess what we want.

We are conducting studies to continue probing how flexible dogs can be in understanding our gestural communication. We are adapting studies conducted with young children for use with dogs. In this way we can understand how dog cognition is similar and different from that observed in young children (or other primates we test with the same game).