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Do Tell: Can Your Dog Understand Gestures?

Chances are if you're pointing towards food, your pooch will find it one way or another but have you ever stopped to notice if he follows your gestures in general? According to not one but two recent studies, dogs can comprehend pointing on the same level as a 2-year-old child and require nearly zero learning time to figure out how to follow direction.
The studies also watched dogs follow head-turning, gazing, and pointing using other body parts, and those smarty pups figured it out. The biggest problems for canines and two year olds came with tricky gestures where the protruding arm pointed in a different direction than the finger itself . . . but three year olds mastered all the tests. Even though I was quick to share this news with lilsugar, the scientist points out the need to not generalize:

Any behavioral similarity or similar performance between dogs and children should be investigated separately in each case. Just to give an example for a reverse case: nobody has tried to herd a flock of sheep with 2-year-old (human children).

Point taken, but I've still been testing North at home, and he will look around and seem to follow my cues most of the time — will yours?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Aphrosette Aphrosette 7 years
Yes they can, both trained ones, and untrained ones....I run agility courses and our trainer is constantly reminding me of different things that I do that tell the dog something other then what I actually want it to leaning into an obstacle tells them not to take it b/c its "blocked" and I need to lean away from it. or calling a dog to my right hand to make a turn instead of picking it up on my left.....and then when I see it done right its just amazing how well they read and follow what my body is telling them to do.
Susanna Susanna 7 years
My neighbor communicates with his dog only through gestures -- the dog is deaf.
Pampire Pampire 7 years
Yes my pooches know hand gestures very well, I talk with my hands a lot so I guess that's why they know them very well! Also my lil yorkies favorite thing to do is look for flies so he can chase them and if I just turn my head in different directions like I'm looking for them he will start searching for them without me saying a word, which I do a lot(even when there aren't any) just to get his reaction because its so funny to watch him! :)
insanitypepper insanitypepper 7 years
My dog knows a lot of gestures, but he stubbornly ignores them just like a two-year old.
mix-tape mix-tape 7 years
My dog knows gestures for all of her tricks, I think she prefers I do them rather than use verbal commands. She also knows where to look when I point or if I do movements with my hand indicating for her to move away or turn around. Dogs are pretty intelligent if given the right direction.
wren1 wren1 7 years
Yes, I often use gestures for come and stay without saying a word, and my dog usually obeys.
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