9 Special Abilities that Show How Smart Dogs Really Are
  • Original English | 2016-06-29
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  • http://www.businessinsider.com/special-abilities-that-show-how-smart-dogs-are-2016-6 9 special abilities that show how smart dogs really are
9 Special Abilities that Show How Smart Dogs Really Are
1. Dogs feel empathy.
When you look at your dog and yawn, chances are your dog might yawn, too, because dogs can "catch" your yawn, according to a 2008 study published in Biology Letters. This is called "emotional contagion," and it's a basic form of empathy.
Dogs are believed to empathize with us in other ways as well. Research suggests that they are sensitive to their guardians' emotions and that their behavior is influenced by the expression of these emotions.
2. Dogs make eye contact.
Dogs are the only nonprimate animal to look people in the eyes without misinterpreting what it means. Wolves, meanwhile, interpret eye contact as a sign of hostility.
3. With eye contact, they form a special bond with humans.
"Just by making eye contact with dogs," said Hare, "we have an increase in oxytocin." Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the "love hormone," plays an important role in attachment-forming, bonding, and trust.
4. Dogs see humans as part of their family.
Recent studies of dogs’ brains suggest that not only do they love us, but they also see us as their family.
A 2015 neuroimaging study about odor processing in a dog’s brain found that when dogs smelled their owners, the "reward center" of their brains (called the caudate nucleus) lit up. The study also found that the dogs prioritized the smell of humans over all other smells.
5. And they interact with us as if they were children.
Behavioral research has shown that dogs are the only domesticated animals that interact with their humans in the same way that babies interact with their parents. Unlike cats or horses, dogs that are scared or worried will run to their humans for help and comfort, in much the same way a toddler runs to their parents.
6. Dogs understand gestures, like pointing.
When it comes to understanding gestures dogs and young children start around the same level: If someone points to an object, both will be able to interpret the hand movement and find the object. Dogs are able to divine the meaning behind the gestures, and this is something that even chimps failed to do.
7. Dog brains react to human voices.
A 2014 study in the journal Current Biology took MRI scans of dogs' brains while they listened to a variety of different dog and human sounds. The images showed that dog brains have voice areas in the brain, and that they process voices in the same way that human brains do, with a similar part of the brain lighting up at the sound of human voices.
They also found that dog brains responded when they heard emotional sounds, such as crying or laughter. These findings might help explain why vocal communication is so successful between humans and dogs.
8. Some dogs can learn new words the way children do.
Dogs, like dolphins, apes, and parrots, can learn a series of vocal commands — or words. One dog, a border collie named Rico, knew more than 200 words, mostly the names of toys.
9. And some dogs have the ability to generalize.
Today, more dogs have jobs helping humans than ever before, and one of those jobs — being a guide dog — relies on a dog being able to do one important thing: generalize.
In other words, guide dogs have to be able to take what they learn in one specific situation and apply it to all similar situations. This is why they are picked and the focus of their training.
While not all dogs are the same (and not all have all these abilities), it is still clear that we are getting smarter about how smart our canine friends really are.
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