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Doggone It! Your Dog Has You Pegged

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Ever think your dog knows exactly when to misbehave?

You may well be right, according to a neat study out of the United Kingdom.

The recent research showed that dogs seem to understand that humans can't see in the dark -- and they'll take advantage of that fact to sneak a forbidden treat.

For the study, United Kingdom researchers watched 84 dogs under varying light conditions. In each case, the animals were in a room with a person and a tempting piece of food they were verbally commanded not to take. The light conditions changed so that the person was sometimes in the dark and sometimes illuminated. The same lighting changes were done with the food.

Overall, the researchers found, the dogs would try to snatch more food when the treat was obscured in the dark. But the animals did not change their behavior based on whether the person with them was illuminated or in a darkened part of the room.

So the dogs were not acting solely on what they, themselves, could see.

"We believe that this may imply that dogs understand what humans can and cannot see," said lead researcher Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth in England.

"The question [of] how they come to such an understanding is a very good one," she added, "and it will definitely be a subject of future research."

According to Kaminski, the findings, published recently in the journal Animal Cognition, add to evidence that "we share some of our cognitive skills with other species."

The traditional view of dogs -- and other animals -- was that they can learn from conditioning (like obeying commands), and that's all. But Kaminski said this study joins other ones in showing that canines can understand their environment, including other beings.

An animal behavior expert not involved in the research agreed. The study showed that dogs seemed to grasp the human perspective of things, said Nicholas Dodman, a professor at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass.

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