The Signals Dogs Use to Tell Us What They Want

A study published in the journal Animal Cognition has identified multiple “signals” dogs use to indicate when they want our attention.

Signals are defined as requests made with an object and/or a part of the body.  They also need to be directed at an individual and repeated.

After studying dozens of potential canine signals, the researchers identified 19 that clearly indicated specific requests.  The most common were related to going outside, getting food, drink or a toy, and wanting to be scratched.

Common signals include pawing at something (or someone), jumping up, and turning the head between a person and a desired object.  Many dogs will also pick their toys up and toss them a short distance or give a gentle “chomp” on a person’s arm.

How does your best friend get your attention?!

You can read the full article HERE and watch a brief video on the study from National Geographic here:



Experts Address Pet Behavior Issues in Free Webinar


Most dog and cat owners will experience at least a few of the common canine and feline behavior problems with their pets.  Is your cat going outside of the litter box…or does your dog experience separation anxiety?  You’re not alone, and many pet parents have the same problems.  If you’re interested in hearing some expert advice from Cornell University veterinarians, you can watch a free webinar.


Noted animal behavior specialists from the Baker Institute for Animal Health and the Cornell Feline Health Center have posted a webinar online that addresses such common pet behavior problems as canine aggression and separation anxiety and feline house soiling and destructive behavior.


You can watch the full webinar and learn more about how to handle your pet’s behavior issues here:


Your Dog’s Got Your Back: Dogs Don’t Like People Who Snub Their Owners

Dog Study

A recent study conducted at Kyoto University in Japan proves that dogs understand when people are mean to their owners, and will even reject food from those people in a show of solidarity with their owners.

Researchers tested several groups of dogs by having their owners ask strangers for help opening a box. In the first group, one person refused to help the owner while a third person remained neutral. In the second group, one person helped the owner while a third person remained neutral. Neither person interacted with the owner in the third control group.

After the dogs watched the human interactions, both strangers offered them food. Dogs that saw their owners being snubbed were significantly more likely to take food from the neutral person and ignore the person who refused to help their owners. Dogs in the other two groups showed no preference when offered food from the strangers.

Dog Study2

The authors of the study note that dogs are able to evaluate the behavior of people and make decisions based on those perceptions, even if it means foregoing a treat. They argue that if the dogs acted only out of self-interest, they would have accepted food from any of the strangers, regardless of behavior.

Dogs share this ability with just humans (who develop it at around 3 years old) and some, but not all, primates.

For more on the study, click HERE.


Wolf Social Skills Led to Dog-Human Bond

Dog's social skills were already present in the wolf. (Photo: Wolf Science Center)

Dog’s social skills were already present in the wolf. (Photo: Wolf Science Center)

Animal behaviorists have theorized that dogs’ close attentiveness to humans developed during the domestication process, as humans selected for such characteristics as tolerance and cooperativeness when first breeding dogs for work or companionship. New research from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna and the Wolf Science Center in Austria shows that wolves are as attentive to members of their own species and human beings as dogs are, suggesting that wolves already possess the qualities that humans value so much in dogs.

Researchers developed a “canine cooperation hypothesis” stating that the social behavior of wolves in their pack groups was already developed enough, so that further human selection for social attentiveness and tolerance in dogs wasn’t needed.

Tests conducted with wolves (who grew up around humans) and dogs show that both dogs and wolves are able to follow human cues to find hidden food, follow the gaze of humans, and also open boxes after observing others do it first. In fact, the wolves were actually more successful at opening boxes than the dogs.

The researchers note that it was not necessary to breed for such qualities as cooperation and attentiveness in the earliest dogs, because wolves already exhibited these qualities as they interacted with each other and, if they lost their fear of humans, with us as well.

For more on the study, click HERE.