When it comes to studying animal behavior, dogs have rarely been on the top ten list. Not since Pavlov became interested in learning the secrets of a dog’s digestive responses have scientists given much attention to canines in the animal behavior arena. But today, Harvard scientists are wondering what dogs are thinking and using a series of behavior tests to gauge the scope of a dog’s reasoning ability.
Using local dogs, scientists at Harvard’s Canine Cognition Lab are trying to determine if dogs can feel guilt, patience, or understand more abstract concepts.
Would dog owners be surprised to learn that dog’s can understand some basic “human” concepts? Absolutely not. Anyone who has ever had a dog has attributed some of their behaviors anthropomorphically. But do dogs respond that way because they have learned the social cues of our world or because through a continued relationship with humankind they are simply learning?
Scientists now have their noses to the ground and will be trying to answer these questions as they observe and test dog behavior.
The Boston Globe has the full story and a video.