Virginia Morell writes in sciencemag.org: The next time your dog digs a hole in the backyard after watching you garden, don’t punish him. He’s just imitating you.
A study reveals that our canine pals are capable of copying our behavior as long as 10 minutes after it’s happened. The ability is considered mentally demanding and, until this discovery, something that only humans and apes were known to do.
Brian Hare says “I doubt that they would have predicted that dogs can learn new actions by observing what a human does, remembering the actions, and then repeating those actions, after translating them to their own doggy body plan.”
Claudia Fugazza developed a ‘Do As I Do’ programme – for more about this see here. She hopes that trainers, especially those teaching guide and other working dogs, take advantage of their willingness to learn by watching our actions. Miklósi and Fugazza advise dog-owners and trainers to think of useful actions for dogs to copy, such as fetching the mail from the mailbox, carrying a tool to the garden, or better yet on these hot summer days, grabbing a beer for Dad from the ‘fridge.
Here is a video clip of a dog I went to see who didn’t need a human to copy in order to dig holes! His owners had dedicated a part of the garden to him. His is a story or two dogs I went to with a happy ending.
Theo Stewart, The Dog Lady
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