The dog's eyes have itThey can follow the human gaze or a pointing hand, figure out what it is we are looking at and seek out the target. Dogs have spent thousands of years living with humans so a Hungarian research team set out to investigate whether this cunning ability came from wolves, the genetic ancestors of today's dogs, or developed during domestication... The wolves could find the food when their handler either tapped the correct hiding place or pointed from a close distance... However, the real difference came when the researchers tested the dogs and wolves in a tricky situation. Food was hidden in a bin or on the end of a rope, and the animals got used to opening the bin or pulling the rope to get the bait. But when the bin was sealed shut, or the rope tied down, the main contrast between the two became clear. Dogs frequently looked back at their master while wolves just kept their heads down and tried to solve the problem. Wild wolves generally tend not to look at human faces, and not even careful hand-rearing of the wolves could change this behaviour.
by Katharine Arney
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
It takes great trust from a dog to stare you in your face. Normally dogs are affronted if a stranger looks them directly in their eyes. They consider it a challenge and an insulting one at that. That is undoubtedly what wolves think and why they don’t look back at their handler. If you want to get close to a strange dog, don’t stare him in the face; he becomes defensive and is likely to bite you.
Now when your Golden Retriever comes up, nudges you in the elbow, and stares adoringly into your eyes, you know that he completely trusts you. And he wants your dinner too.