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Does Your Dog Follow Your Gaze? Science Says No

Wolves do it. So do apes, monkeys, goats, ravens, and even tortoises. But according to an article in Science Magazine, dogs are a major fail...

Maria Goodavage  |  Feb 25th 2011


Wolves do it. So do apes, monkeys, goats, ravens, and even tortoises. But according to an article in Science Magazine, dogs are a major fail at something some other animals are expert in: Following someone’s gaze.

The report documents studies showing that wolves and several other animals are very adept at following a human’s gaze, even to the point of being able to go around a low wall to see the subject of the person’s gaze. But dogs, claims the article, don’t even bother to look in the direction a person is looking when they see the person gazing at an object in the distance.

“That is a clear difference between dogs and wolves,” Marc Bekoff, a cognitive ethologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told the magazine. Scientists aren’t sure why dogs fail the gaze test, but it may be because “we train them to look at our eyes and face and not to follow our gaze,” says Friederike Range, a cognitive ethologist at the University of Vienna and the lead author of one of the studies.

It’s a really interesting article, and well worth reading. But I have to say that the scientists should come to my house and study Jake. He definitely can look in the direction I do, mostly when I am staring at the refrigerator from my office in a nearby room. If he’s near me, he’ll immediately turn his gaze to the fridge. He knows the goodies that lie therein, and is finely tuned to anything related to food. I’d be willing to bet that none of the researchers studied people staring into kitchens near their Labrador retrievers…

Dogsters, do your dogs support the science reported in the article, or do they sometimes follow your gaze? Let us know the details! If we get enough information, I’ll send it to the authors of one of the most recent studies, purely for their anecdotal reading pleasure.

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