Dog puppies have the ability to interact with people at a very young age without any previous experience or training due to their genetics, according to a study from the University of Arizona in the USA.
The research was able to determine that puppies react to human social gaze at a very young age, even before having previous experience with humans.
One of the things they found is that, even though they are part of a litter of newborns, the puppies interact with humans after the first encounter: they follow the directions given to them to find food.
Researchers attribute this empathy of dog puppies with humans to the fact that more than 40 percent of their natural ability to follow human directions is explained by genetic heritability.
Genetics also determine the visual language that dog puppies can establish with humans during the performance of a task.
As explained by the lead author of this research, Emily E. Bray, in a release, the levels of genetic involvement of dog puppies in their empathy with human beings are very similar to the heritability of intelligence in our species.
Social comunication The researchers evaluated the reactions of 375 dog puppies for eight weeks while they performed the same tasks.
They used observational data collected between 2017 and mid-2020, and then built a statistical model that compares genetic and environmental factors in the dogs they tested, taking into account each other’s breed, sex, age, and location. breeding.
The first thing they appreciated is that social communication through gestures and eye contact was something natural for the puppies from the first moments of their life.
However, social communication signals only work when a person initiates the interaction, speaking to the puppy in a high-pitched voice, the researchers caution.
If that doesn’t happen, the puppies don’t look to people to find out where the food is hidden.
This study confirms previous evidence that very young dogs share the same willingness to cooperate and communicate as human babies.
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Something new At the same time, it brings something new: until now, the genetic influence that could be behind this behavior was unknown.
What this new research has sought is to better understand how dogs think and how they solve problems, how their abilities develop and change over time, and how genetics and individual experiences contribute to these changes.
All the dogs analyzed in this research also had an extremely similar breeding history and a known pedigree dating back several generations.
‘Therefore, our findings could point to an important part of the history of domestication, in the sense that animals with a propensity to communicate with our own species could have been selected from the wolf populations that gave rise to the dogs, ”according to Bray.
Next steps The next step in the research will be to explore whether puppies can identify some of the specific genes that contribute to social behaviors.
The team is currently collecting cognitive data and blood samples from adult dogs for a genome-wide association study, which will aim to identify genetic markers associated with social behaviors.
The researchers will also monitor to see if performance on any of the social tasks at eight weeks predicts successful graduation as a service dog.
Reference Early-emerging and highly heritable sensitivity to human communication in dogs. Emily E. Bray 7 et al. Current Biology, June 03, 2021. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.04.055
Superior Photo: Helena Sushitskaya and Pixabay
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.