Fun little experiment from "science of dogs" documentary.

  • Saw this on the National Geographic documentary "Science of Dogs" and thought it'd be fun to try for myself:. Basically, the experiment was assessing domestic dog reliance on humans in comparison to that of 'domestic' captive wolves.

    They had "Human A" hold the dog/or wolf while "Human B" stood several or so feet away with two containers (of the same type) on each side - each filled with the same amount of meat. They would then have "Human B" point to one of the two containers. "Human A" would then proceed to let the dog/wolf go and assess if they relied on the human signal for guidance.

    In these experiments they found that the dog would look to humans for guidance…most often going to whichever container the human pointed...the wolf on the other hand would not even pay attention to the human signal, and would go wherever their nose took them.

    Not surprising results. But wanted to see what a more independent dog would do, so I tried this with Beo 6 times - I got exactly half and half results. Thought it was interesting. Sometimes he would look at my hand and go directly to where I directed, other times he would completely ignore my signal; not even bothering to look. At one turn he went up to the container I was pointing at, but then turned around and went to the other one.

    Just a fun little experiment, but curious if anyone else has tried this...and if so what other results people are getting with their dogs (not necessarily basenji).

  • I do some version of this..with his toys for instance (whether it be antlers or balls)..I will put two or three equal distances apart and I will point to one and see if he will choose the one I think he will..he often sniffs the one I point to, looks at them all and chooses the one he wants, it almost never has to do with me…

  • Ha, no surprises there…your Oakley sounds like a major handful though so it makes a lot of sense that he would make his own choices (when given the option). just curious though - does he act like he sees your hand signal, and just chooses to ignore it? Or does he act like what the 'wolves' in the experiment did and just not even comprehend the gesture at all.

  • Some breeds of dog seem to understand the concept of pointing or direction better than others, herding dogs for example. However, I have experimented with giving my Basenji direction and depending on his mood, he will at times pay attention to my cues. He has gotten pretty good at verbal cues as well. For example, if I have asked him to retrieve a specific toy for me, I may help him out by saying "under" if it is under furniture, or "look up" if it is up on something, or for that matter tell him what room I think it is in, and he will go look there. Depending on how much you use language with your dog, they will understand and listen to verbal cues perhaps better than hand signals, unless you have worked on those. Of course, Basenjis also get in the mood to ignore you on principle! 🙂

  • Seems like herding dogs would have a special inclination for "hand gestures", I've worked with Beo since he was weeks hold trying to get him to figure out that when I point it means to look in that direction… I'm sure a good portion of it has to do with early socialization.....they didn't really discuss (in the documentary) to what extent these captive wolves were worked with.

  • I don't find Perry particularly good at taking direction when I try to tell him where a squirrel or crow is. He knows the name, but prefers to look around on his own, often missing out as he would have seen the critter sooner had he looked at me instead of relying on his own abilities! I find sight hounds see motion wonderfully well, but something that is still, not so much. A bit like horses that way…..

  • I think Oakley sees my point because he will look to the object my hand is touching…most often times at least..he never looks at my face for a cue of to acknowledge my words..if I throw something and tell him to go get it (and he doesn't see the throw)'s impossible to direct him towards it..he's silly that way- no direction!

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