Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Your dog understands your point of view, study shows

In this Feb. 1, 2013 photo, an English golden retriever puppy sits with her litter in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Carrie Antlfinger/AP

Do you ever feel like the only one who really gets you is your dog?

It turns out dogs are pretty good at putting themselves in our shoes. According to Time magazine's Newsfeed blog, a new study suggests that dogs can understand situations from a human point of view.

This news likely comes as no surprise to dog lovers, who have suspected it all along, but to researchers the findings offer evidence that dogs do indeed appear to show "flexible understanding" of a human's perspective.

Story continues below advertisement

The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, found that its 84 canine participants were four times more likely to steal food that their owners forbade them to eat when the lights were turned off – evidence that they understood their human companions couldn't see them disobeying them. (Had the dogs complied with their owners' orders when the lights came down, the researchers would have concluded that they could not understand their owners were unable to see, Time's Newsfeed reports.)

"Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that's us thinking, not them," researcher Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth told the BBC. "These results suggest humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can't be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others' minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability."

It's not just dogs; animals of all kinds tend to surprise us with seemingly human-like qualities.

Last year, researchers published a study about an Asian elephant named Koshik who could imitate the Korean language. It was believed Koshik developed the skill to bond with its human companions, since humans were the lonely elephant's only social contact.

Scientists have also studied the facial expressions of mice, finding that rodents grimace in pain. Such findings certainly encourage us to be more sensitive to animals. But just because animals are similar to us, should we treat them like humans too?

The custody battle over Darwin, the famous Ikea monkey, has raised the debate about whether it is appropriate to treat pets as the furry children we want them to be.

What do you think? Should animals be treated like humans?

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to