Dogs can Understand Consequences of Own Actions

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The dogs can recognize their own body as an obstacle and understand the consequences of their own actions, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers Peter Pongracz and Rita Lenkei, from the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary conducted the study in 32 domestic dogs.

Previous research has shown that dogs have complex cognitive abilities, such as empathy and social learning, but it was unclear whether they also display some form of self-awareness.

The researchers tested dogs in a task during which the animals had to pick up and hand over a toy to its owner, while standing on a small carpet to which it was attached the toy. To lift the toy, the dogs had to leave the carpet. 

Dog playing with toys
Image by Mat Coulton from Pixabay

The authors found that dogs left the mat more often and earlier when the toy was placed on the mat than in control experiments, in which it was fixed to the floor and leaving the mat did not affect the dogs’ ability to pass the mat toy to their owners.

They also found the dogs leaving the mat more often with the toy in their mouth if it is attached to the mat than if it is attached to the floor. 

The findings suggest that the dogs were able to recognize their own body as the obstacle that prevented them from delivering the toy to its owner.  They differentiated between conditions when it was necessary to leave the mat to complete the task and when leaving the mat did not solve the problem.

The findings may support the idea that dogs have body awareness, the ability to understand their own body’s relationship to objects external to themselves. That is a precursor to self-awareness, and that they may also understand something of the consequences of your own actions.

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