Their genes are what make dogs your best friends – Periódico Página100 – Noticias de popayán y el Cauca

Their genes are what make dogs your best friends

For the study, researchers worked with 375 puppies.

A study has examined the social skills of these animals.

The tendency of dogs to want to be a human’s best friend comes from their genetic makeup.

According to new research, dogs carry the ability to socialize with humans in their genetic makeup.

Dogs: social by nature

This phrase couldn’t be more true. Dogs are social by nature. From the moment they’re born, they want to be our best friends.

When you talk to your dog and you think it understands you, or even cuddles you, you might not be so far from the truth.

From when they’re puppies, they’re capable of developing many skills and helping people.

These domestic animals, who are members of the family, understand a great deal of human language.

Even in the street, dogs can surprise us with their social ability.

This social talent, which characterizes dogs when it comes to interacting with humans, has a lot to do with their genes, as demonstrated by a study recently published in the journal Current Biology.

The investigation

Researchers assessed 375 eight-week-old puppies and found that many of their social skills emerge in the early stages of their development.

This means that their social skills are related to their genes.

They’re born biologically prepared to live with and help human beings.

The results of the research yielded information showing that breeds such as retrievers develop social skills and interest in human faces from eight weeks old.

Researchers identified that genetic factors explain almost half of the variations in dogs’ social abilities.

Even before puppies spend an extensive amount of time or socialize with humans.


Puppies’ genes guide them on human interactions. (Photo: Canine Companions for Independence / AFP)

Learning from when they’re puppies

What’s more, they recorded that puppies successfully understand human gestures from an early age.

Just like children, dogs are responsive to very clear signals that indicate communicative gestures.

In order to assess that social cognition, researchers took measurements to evaluate spontaneous responses to gestural communication, approach, and social interaction with humans, as well as the attention paid to human faces.

The tests

Gesture tracking tests showed that dogs are very good at responding to human gestural communication that doesn’t depend on training.

One of the tests consisted of a trainer placing the puppy away from two cups containing a treat, which it couldn’t smell.

Then, they signaled saying, “Puppy, look!”, while making eye contact and pointing and looking at the spot that contained the treat.


Procedure and results of gesture tracking tasks. (Photo: Current Biology, Early-emerging and highly heritable sensitivity to human communication in dogs)

According to Emily Bray, a researcher at the University of Arizona and the paper’s lead author, a key test they used was to observe how well the animals understood human finger-pointing gestures.

The puppies chose the right cup 67% of the time, well above the 50% which would be expected if they didn’t understand.

In another test, a small box was placed next to the container with the treat, as a way of marking the answer or giving the puppies ‘a hint’.

The result showed that 72% of the puppies understood the clue and got the treat.

Interest in humans

In order to corroborate human interest, an experimenter stood outside the testing area, looked at the pup, and read from a script using a voice that mimicked the tone of a mother with a young child.

As the experimenter spoke, they timed how long the puppy looked at their face.

The researcher then entered the testing area and petted the puppy, but only if it came within arm’s length.

They also recorded the time the puppy spent near the experimenter.


One of the experiments carried out on the puppies relating to their social skills. (Photo: Canine Companions for Independence / AFP)

New research

Statistical analysis showed that genetic factors account for 43% of the variation in ability between puppies, comparable to the genetic basis for intelligence in humans.

Future investigations will focus on determining which genetic markers correspond to these higher social skills.




ILLUSTRATION: (Photo: Emily Bray / Canine Companions for Independence)


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