Most dog owners think of their pets as one of the family and are more than happy to lavish them with luxury bedding, premium dog food and plenty of love and attention.

But however much we may think of our pets in human terms until now there has been no scientific evidence that our canine companions can understand a person's point of view.

However, now scientists at the University of Portsmouth have carried out a study that they believe shows that dogs really can understand a human perspective.

The team discovered that when a person tells a dog not to take food, it is four times more likely to disobey in a dark room than it would in a lit room.

"What we've revealed is incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them," said leader of the study Dr Juliane Kaminski, of the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology. "This means they might understand the human perspective."

The research, published in the journal Animal Cognition, involved a series of experiments carried out with dogs in varied light conditions.

Some 42 female and 42 male pet dogs aged one year or older took part in each of the tests, in which the canine was forbidden by a human from taking the food.

The researchers found that when the room was darkened, the dogs took more food and took it more quickly than when the room was lit.

Dr Kaminski said that there was no evidence on how well domestic dogs could see in the dark, but the findings from the study revealed that these canines could differentiate between light and dark.

"The results of these tests suggest that dogs are deciding it's safer to steal the food when the room is dark because they understand something of the human's perspective," she added.

Written by: Hannah