If you have a dog at home, you probably talk to them, sing to them, tell them all about your day, and I'm willing to bet you have a really weird nickname for them, too. You look into your pup's adorable little eyes, and you gush to them about how darling they are, and how sometimes, it feels like they're the only creature on earth that truly understands you. Well, canine-lovers, here's some awesome news for you: If you've secretly believed that all this time dogs can talk to humans, the results of a new study say you're not wrong.
I mean, you might not hear your pooch reciting a Shakespeare sonnet to you anytime soon, but according to new research from the University of Salford, Manchester in the UK, dogs do have an ability to communicate with you in a way that's actually much more developed than you might think. In fact, while it's usually the owner who gives commands to their dog to "speak" or "sit," this study suggests it might be the other way around sometimes.
Biology researchers at the University of Salford, Manchester were able to identify a whopping 19 different signals that dogs not only communicate to humans, but actually expect them to carry out.
Specifically, your pup can actually signal you to hurry your ass up if they feel like you're taking too long to give them what they want.
Whether it's a treat they're after or they simply want you to give 'em a nice scratch behind the ears, dogs apparently have a lot to say, and if you pay attention to their body language, you might just be able to understand them.
Hannah Worsley, one of the PhD researchers on the study, said in a statement to the university,
Most research has tended to ask questions about a dog’s ability to understand humans, so we decided to look at it the other way around. What we see is how dogs are really adept at using what’s termed "referential gestures" which in the human world are things like pointing and waving.
For instance, we found that when dogs want a scratch, they use as many as 14 different gestures to coax their owners to do it.
To carry out the study, which has been published in the journal Animal Cognition, the researchers recruited the owners of 37 pet dogs, who were all asked to film their pups as they went about their business in all kinds of day-to-day situations. The researchers ended up with and analyzed over 1,000 video clips, which they subsequently broke down into four standard requests that seem to come from most of these dogs: to give them food or something to drink, to open the door, to get their toys, or to pet them. Typical needy pups, right?
Overall, though, the researchers identified a total of 19 different signals that pups seem to communicate to their owners, some of which included "roll over, back leg up, paw reach, front paw on, crawl under and hind leg stand," per the university's press release about the research. But the most common signal of all was the "head turn," or "gaze alternation," as the researchers called it — you know, that little head cock to the side that your doggo does when they want something?
That adorable, head-tilt gesture was recorded nearly 400 times in this one study, and it seemed to be one of the main ways in which dogs ask you for food, water, toys, or to be pet.
Some of the other common gestures dogs used in this study to get what they want were a hovering paw to signal hunger or thirst, and — no surprise here — rolling over was found to pretty much always be used as a way to say, "Yo, I need to be scratched like, five minutes ago, lady."
Dr. Worsley explained in the study's press release,
This implies that dogs are very much aware that they can’t just make a gesture, they also need to ensure that gesture is understood by the recipient, and if necessary make it easier or clearer for the message recipient.
What is clear is that after 30,000 years of cohabitation, dogs and their human companion have become skilled at identifying and understanding each other’s referential cues. Perhaps another reason why man and dog seems to be such a satisfying relationship.
So the next time you catch your pup tilting their head at you, don't just snap a pic for the 'Gram (but make sure you still do, because I want to see that sh*t and "like" the crap out of it). Perk your own ears up and listen, because your doggo may have more to say than you realize.