Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Canine Report

Canine Report

By Anne CasselmanNovember 22, 2005 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

What Humans Know About Dogs

When dogs bark, people understand. They don’t need to know the dog or even like dogs in general, says Ádám Miklósi, a research fellow in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary. They can tell fairly accurately what a dog is trying to communicate.

To test this, Miklósi and his colleagues recorded barks of the mudi, a Hungarian sheepdog, in six scenarios ranging from play to attack. Thirty-six people were asked to match each recorded bark with the emotional state of the dog and the context in which it was delivered. The listeners scored well, correctly matching deep barks with aggression triggered by an intruder and higher-pitched yelps with the despair of an abandoned dog. “Dog barking was a kind of behavior that emerged with domestication,” says Miklósi. Dogs who could convey meaning through sound—a useful trait to warn the cave clan that trouble was on the way—were favored.

What Dogs Know About Each Other

As any dog lover can tell you, canines are expert at wrapping others around their dewclaws. Alexandra Horowitz, an animal cognition researcher at Barnard College, filmed hundreds of hours of dogs at play. She found that they use many ploys to keep canine playmates in the game. When a dog fails to nab attention, it will escalate tactics from, say, a nudge to a body check. “Their use of attention getters is correlated to the degree of distraction of their erstwhile playmate,” she says. Only after they secure the other’s attention do they signal their intent to roughhouse, often with a bow on extended front legs. Horowitz believes this shows that dogs have a rudimentary version of theory of mind, the attribution of mental states to others. “They don’t just do these play signals randomly or capriciously,” she says.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In