Puppy love: Dogs 'communicate with humans from birth' says new study

·3 min read
cute labrador retriever puppy licking nose and looking up, sitting on yellow background
Puupies naturally want to connect with humans. All together now: "Awwww!" (Getty Creative)

Dogs really are man's best friend, according to a new study.

Scientists have discovered that dogs can communicate with humans from birth – understanding their faces and gestures.

The research, by the University of Arizona, indicates that puppies need no training or practice to decipher what their owner wants. 

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, lead author Dr Emily Bray said: "From a young age, dogs display human-like social skills."

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As part of the study, they asked eight-week-old puppies to sniff out hidden food.

When doing it alone they got it right only 48.9% of the time – but when people were involved, pointing the dog at the location, this rose to 70%.

Humans have welcomed dogs into their homes for centuries, and there are multiple theories as to why humans and dogs get on so well.

Previous research has found that our canine buddies have three genes that make them hyper-sociable, and these resonate with similar genes found in humans.

Read more: People are sharing hilarious photos of their pets in viral social media challenge

"It is no surprise to any behaviourist to read a study saying dogs can communicate with humans from birth," says Carolyn Menteith, behaviourist at tails.com.

"After all, this connection is one of the key differences between a domestic animal and a wild animal - a domestic animal will naturally orient towards humans whereas a wild animal will naturally orient away.

"The key words here are ‘can communicate’. This is a learned skill even if natural. That is why it is so important to consider where a puppy comes from, how they are bred and how they are brought up because it is in the very early weeks of life - from sentience to around seven weeks old - where they learn the soft skills of communication and who their social group is."

New research has found that puppies can understand human faces and gestures from birth. (Getty Images)
New research has found that puppies can understand human faces and gestures from birth. (Getty Images)

So how can we boost this unique relationship?

"Dogs communicate with us all the time - it’s just that sometimes us humans that are not so good at listening," explains Menteith.

Read more: Can I take my dog on holiday to EU countries?

"While humans are a verbal species, dogs communicate using body language, and so we need to learn to ‘speak dog’ if we really want to understand the animals that share our lives. 

"Subtle behaviours such as yawning, licking their lips or turning their head away can speak volumes to those who can appreciate the very clear (to our dogs) communication. 

"As the most intelligent of the two species, it is us that should be listening to what our dogs are saying rather than expecting them always to understand us!

"In turn, we are the most important thing in our dog’s life - and as experts in body language, they are totally focussed on watching us and learning from us every moment of the day, until they are often far better at reading our communication than we are at reading theirs. 

"Time spent with our dogs, building their trust in us, developing our bond, and working together in interactive tasks and games, builds that natural two-way communication and understanding that gives us the relationship with our dogs that is the envy of all."

Watch: Doggy takes on big brother responsibilities with new puppies

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