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Dogs Can Read Non-Verbal Cues!

By — One of many Dog Breeds blogs on

Hello and welcome to another issue of The Kibble. This week in dog health news, we've got some interesting studies alluding to the idea that dogs can understand non-verbal communication.

I’ve always heard pet owners talk about how their dog can sense their emotions, and I feel like I’ve experienced that with my family’s pets. For instance, when I'm feeling sad, my parent’s dog, Zip, will sense that I'm upset and cuddle with me. Even when I'm just playing fetch with him I can tell that he's closely watching my every move. He watches my eye movement as well as my body movement to see what direction I'm going to throw the ball.

Now, a study has proved that dogs are in tune with our emotions and that they can sense non-verbal communication. They look at our eyes to try and figure out what we are feeling, according to a study published in Current Biology.

Pet owner, Crystal Knode, couldn’t agree more with the findings:

“She anticipates what is going to happen,” Knode said, explaining the behavior of her 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, “She watches and takes cues to figure out what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do. Dogs are very attuned to body language and hand motions.”

Another study suggests that dogs are most receptive when someone makes eye contact with them and addresses them with a verbal command. Jozsef Topal, a Hungarian researcher, and his colleagues studied 29 canines. Each dog was shown a movie of a woman interacting with the audience. Sometimes the woman would stare at the dog, call out to him/her, then turn her head to stare at an object. Other times, the woman would only turn her head to stare at the object. The dogs responded the most when eye contact was made with them. Once eye contact had been established, they would follow her gaze to the object.

So, how have dogs learned to pick up on verbal cues? There are two schools of thought on this: The first is that dogs have evolved into sharing their lives with humans. Therefore, they've learned to read our body language through familiarity. Because of this dog-human interaction, dogs have gained new skills that support their social interactions with humans.

The second possibility is that dogs have always interacted in this exact fashion; it’s just the way they are. Deleta Jones a dog trainer lends her perspective on this theory:

“If you’ve ever watched dogs at a dog park, you’ve seen it. Within 30 seconds of the time they enter the park a huge amount of information has passed back and forth between the new dog and the ones already in the park. They’re exchanging looks, observing eyes and body posture. In seconds they know who is dominant and who is submissive.”

Dogs seem to be pretty good at sensing a person’s non-verbal communications according to all these studies and observations… what’s your take?


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