I know that this is about dogs but sometimes it is quite interesting to read about dogs because it helps us to better understand animals in general, which must lead to better animal welfare because all the research these days about animals leads us to believe that they are more aware and intelligent than we had believed in the past.
Dogs know what their owners think about other people. What happens is that they watch their owner’s face when they meet a new person. They also watch their owner’s body language and are able to accurately interpret what their owner thinks of the person that they are meeting. From that interpretation they can assess whether the person is hostile or friendly.
To quote the researchers in a paper published in the journal Animal Behaviour:
“When facing a stranger, dogs synchronised their reaction with that of their owners…”
The study was carried out by instructing the dog owner to react in a certain way to a person that he was meeting. So for example the person would meet the stranger in a positive way by moving forward to greet the person or alternatively in a negative way by retreating.
When the owners retreated their dogs would keep checking their owner’s faces. They would then adopt a hostile reaction to the stranger.
The research was carried out by Charlotte Duranton of Marseille University. They say that the research suggests a new way for owners to manage their dogs. I’m not quite sure what that means in this context but the research certainly gives a very good insight into how dogs observe their owners and learn.
It is well known that domestic cats are very good learners through observation and they will observe their human companions and sometimes copy them and learn their owners’ routines, body language and voice which allows for good communication and integration between human and cat.