Dogs Know How to Ignore Bad Directions or Nonsense!
10 October, 2016
dogs ignore bad advice

We love to play with our dogs, throw them a ball and watch them fetch it.  And sometimes, it’s fun to see if they will play a silly game to see if our dogs will play along with us. Most of the times, our dogs’ will tire of the silly game and look at us as if we are crazy.   This isn’t just a coincidence.

A new study shows that our dogs have no patience for human nonsense

Dogs actually know when we ‘yank their leash’ or joke around says one of science’s newest findings about our canine kids: They have no patience for your human nonsense. Specifically, a study recently published in the journal Developmental Science found that when you give a dog bad directions, it’ll learn pretty quickly to ignore them.

A study was done to see if dogs would take an extra unnecessary step to open a box

For the study, which recruited 40 pet dogs of varying breeds, psychologists from Yale’s Canine Cognition Center placed a treat inside a puzzle, then demonstrated to their subjects how to get it out. In reality, the puzzle was just one step — all the dogs had to do was lift the lid of a box — but the researchers added an extra, unnecessary action to their demo, pushing a lever attached to the box that didn’t actually do anything. To make sure the dogs were really trying to solve the task in front of them, rather than following a perceived command, the study authors then left the room and left the animals to their own devices.

The smart dogs ignored a lever that wasn’t needed to open the box!

The dogs, who each went a couple rounds with the puzzle, proved adept at figuring out not only what they needed to do, but also what they didn’t: As the experiment progressed, they began disregarding the lever, going straight for the step that would get them their treat.

The new study was based on a 2005 study that children will take an extra unnecessary step when solving a puzzle

The study offers an interesting insight into dog cognition in its own right, but it also has another layer: The authors based their study on a similar one from 2005 that focused on children instead of dogs — and compared to the dogs, the kids weren’t nearly so savvy. Their puzzle was more complicated, but they tended to repeat the experimenters’ actions step for step each time, without ever pausing to think through or weed out the irrelevant ones.

It’s a tendency the authors of this latest study refer to as “over-imitation,” writing: “This pattern of results suggests that over-imitation may be a unique feature of human social learning,” possibly because by uncritically copying what they see, “children generally limit the amount of time they need to spend learning through repeated trial and error.”

Dogs just aren’t as trusting as little kids and will learn things their way

Or, as lead study author Angie Johnston put it in a statement: “Consider all the important, but seemingly irrelevant, actions that children are successfully able to learn, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth.” To a little kid who doesn’t yet understand hygiene, those things don’t make much sense — but you learn to do them anyway, and the reasoning comes later. Dogs, on the other hand, don’t stay so trusting, says the authors of the new study.

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