The obsequious dog — humankind's most faithful interspecies ally and least likely of all the intelligent mammals to rise up and challenge our hegemony. We assume that our dogs are really into pleasing us, but we may have underestimated just how into it they are. According to a new study about dog behavior, dogs aren't just trained to please us — with each new generation of canines, dogs are becoming increasingly attuned to our every whim. It almost makes the idea of robot butlers seem superfluous. Almost.
New research from Abertay University in Dundee suggests that a dog's ability to anticipate its human companion's every whim isn't just a result of training — dogs are just like that, and as long as people keep selecting for servility when they breed dogs, dogs will become even more attuned to human desires.
From the Telegraph:
It is predicted that dogs will be able to perform basic chores without being told or trained to, such as retrieving a paper, due to their increased cognitive abilities.
Clare Cunningham, the leader of this project, said: "As dogs have become domesticated, one of the abilities that has been selected for is attending to human behaviour. As they get to know particular humans, they pay more attention to them and this may mean they can read, and even predict human behaviour with more efficiency as familiarity grows."
Maybe this strikes you as pretty obvious. I mean, of course dogs are super into making people happy — that's why people like dogs so much. Researchers, however, observed an interesting phenomenon over the course of the study: shelter dogs with little or no training did as well (if not better) at anticipating human behavior as their better-trained counterparts, leading researchers to suggest that DNA has a bigger role to play than training in a dog's cognitive development.
Also worth noting in light of this observation: every animal shelter is a Dickensian orphanage of sadness, with unadopted dogs constantly auditioning for a new home.
Image via Getty, Sascha Steinbach