Dogs genetically hard-wired to interact with humans, study finds

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<p>According to the study, genetics explained more than 40 per cent of the variation in puppies’ abilities to follow human pointing gestures.</p> (PA)

According to the study, genetics explained more than 40 per cent of the variation in puppies’ abilities to follow human pointing gestures.

(PA)

Puppies are genetically hard-wired with skills that allow them to communicate with people, a new study has found.

The study, conducted in Arizona, found that they have a “strong genetic component” to understand and follow directions from humans with little to no training, according to the research published in the journal - Current Biology.

Researchers examined 375 eight-week-old puppies from 117 litters, who were to become service dogs, and 98 Labrador retrievers, 23 golden retrievers and 254 Labrador-golden crosses, who all had little previous one-on-one interaction with humans.

This was done in order for researchers to examine whether inherited genes explain differences in dogs’ abilities.

All the puppies were successful in at least one of four tasks where they were asked to retrieve an object pointed to by a human, even when the odour was masked.

According to the study, genetics explained more than 40 per cent of the variation in puppies’ abilities to follow human pointing gestures.

In task, a human also hid a treat beneath one of two overturned cups and pointed to it to see if the puppy could follow the gesture.

Lead study author Emily Bray, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology, said: “There was evidence that these sorts of social skills were present in adulthood, but here we find evidence that puppies – sort of like humans – are biologically prepared to interact in these social ways.”

She has spent the last decade carrying out research with dogs in collaboration with California-based Canine Companions, a service dog organisation serving clients with physical disabilities.

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