Researcher Juliane Kaminski has published a study which shows that domestic dogs are much more likely to steal food when they think nobody can see them.
Many owners may think ‘so what – I already knew this’ – but Dr Kaminski’s systematic study helps to prove that dogs have the capacity to understand the human’s point of view.
The study found that when a human forbids a dog from taking food, dogs are four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than a lit room, suggesting that they understand humans may not be able to see them take the food.
The tests were complex and involved many variables to rule out that dogs were basing their decisions on simple associative rules, for example, that dark means food. 42 female and 42 male dogs took part in the study.
This is the first study to examine if dogs differentiate between different levels of light when they are developing strategies on whether to steal food.
The research is an incremental step in our understanding of dogs’ ability to think and understand which could, in turn, be of use to those who work with dogs, including the police, the blind and those who use gun dogs, as well as those who keep them as pets.
Dr Kaminski’s study has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.