New research shows that dogs may selectively imitate the actions of other dogs, not just take the easiest, most instinctive path every time.
New research in the online journal Current Biology shows that dogs may selectively imitate the actions of other dogs, not just take the easiest, most instinctive path every time.
In the study, dogs were given the task of opening a box of food by pulling a rod. Dogs instinctively prefer to use their mouths to open the box, but one female dog was taught to open the box with her paw. The others selectively imitated her method. If she had a ball in her mouth when she opened the box with her paw, the other dogs used their mouths. (Thinking, perhaps, "She must be using her paw because she's got a ball in her mouth, but I don't. I'll use my mouth.") If she didn't have the ball in her mouth, the dogs followed her lead and used their paw. ("She must have a reason for using her paw, because she could be using her mouth. I'd better do what she does.")
Researchers say this behavior is parallel to that of human infants, who also selectively imitate actions to reach a goal. The study also shows a closer connection in thinking between dogs and people than people and chimpanzees—chimps always opt for the more effective way of attaining a goal.