Dogs have the ability to learn, remember and repeat actions taught to them by humans, new research has revealed.
This news is significant as it is the first time that researchers have found evidence of canines having the mental capacity to encode and recall actions.
The study was carried out by Claudia Fugazza and Adam Miklosi from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary and has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.
During the research, the pair investigated whether dogs were capable of deferred imitation – repeating an action a while after it had initially been taught to them.
Eight dogs were involved in the testing and were trained by their owners to do an act, such as walking around a bucket, but made to wait from between five and 30 seconds before doing it.
During the intervals, the dogs were distracted from what they were doing by other activities.
"The owner, Valentina, made her dog, Adila, stay and pay attention to her, always in the same starting position. Three randomly chosen objects were set down, each at the same distance from Adila. When Adila was in position, Valentina demonstrated an object-related action, like ringing a bell with her hand," said Ms Fugazza.
A break would then take place where a screen hid the objects from view and the dog and owner played with a ball or practiced a different activity, she continued.
"When the break was over, Valentina walked with her dog back to the original starting position and gave the command 'do it!'. In a control condition, the 'do it!' command was given by someone other than the owner, who did not know what action had previously been demonstrated by the owner. After the 'do it!' command, Adila typically performed the action that was previously demonstrated."
The researchers found that dogs could repeat familiar actions as long as ten minutes later and for more novel tasks up to a minute. They concluded that dogs have the ability to create a "mental representation of the human demonstration". They also suggested there may be specific sort of long-term memory within dogs related to these activities.
Written by: Hannah