Some people believe that a dog’s ability to understand what a person means when they point at something is learned in adulthood through interaction with people. However, a group of researchers at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has illustrated that this is not true.
What they did find out is that while puppies are born with an understanding of human physical and verbal cues, they were not able to initiate help from people for unsolvable problems. This ability comes with experience after interacting with people.
The lead researcher, Emily Bray has spent the last decade studying the puppies bred for service dog work at Canine Companions. Bray feels that if they can understand how dogs think and solve problems, they will be able to better identify those puppies that will make better service dogs.
The researchers noted that the dogs who become successful service dogs respond to people differently than those who are not successful. Because the researchers are able to study the genetics of the puppies in the test, they hope to identify the genes that cause these traits in puppies. This will enable them to predict the potential for service work even before the puppies are born.