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Science

Imitation In Dogs Matches Humans and Apes 181

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that's-where-fido-picked-up-his-bad-habits dept.
sciencehabit writes "The next time your dog digs a hole in the backyard after watching you garden, don't punish him. He's just imitating you. A new study reveals that our canine pals are capable of copying our behavior as long as 10 minutes after it's happened. The ability is considered mentally demanding and, until this discovery, something that only humans and apes were known to do."
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Imitation In Dogs Matches Humans and Apes

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  • by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:09AM (#44358787) Homepage

    Stop chewing on your wife's best shoes and the dog will stop doing that too! Oh and also don't chew on the sofa cushions either.

    • Re:THAT explains it! (Score:5, Informative)

      by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:18AM (#44358815) Homepage Journal

      That's behavior that most mammals do when they teethe due to physical discomfort.

      Just give your puppy his own chew toys that he KNOWS are his and quickly correct him when he tries to chew on things not his and he'll soon learn what he can and can't chew on. Of course, different breeds are easier to train than others so YMMV.

    • by nbritton (823086) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @03:14AM (#44359059)

      Easy fix... put the shoes away. It's all about operant conditioning with dogs. I suggest an e-collar, an alternative him to chew on, and positive reinforcement when he does something you want. I hear imitation also works, you could fetch some of his toys to chew... ;-)

      The other neat thing that dogs can do is figure out what you mean when you point at something, apes just can't seem to grasp this. NOVA did a documentary that attempted to qualify ape intelligence by showing the diffrences between human children and other animals. It was eye opening, particularly the use of tools and the crafting of weapons to kill prey by chimps. I think animals are a lot smarter then we give them credit for, anyhow here is a link: http://m.video.pbs.org/video/1200128615/ [pbs.org]

      • by rikkards (98006) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @04:52AM (#44359353) Journal

        E-collar? Put that on your kid and see how they react (or Children's aid). The latter two suggestions are the right answer. If you have to resort to shocking your dog then you are doing something wrong.
        Your second paragraph is very true, we are becoming more and more aware that animals are not purely instinct driven. Well they are but so are we, we just don't realize our needs and wants are just that.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @05:45AM (#44359491) Homepage

          E-collar? Put that on your kid and see how they react (or Children's aid).

          There are a LOT of children that need that. I fully support the deployment of these things in schools for kids that are troublemakers.

          • by ron_ivi (607351)
            Same for employees spending too much time on /.
            • by Lumpy (12016)

              We cant keep them on the engineers of programmers here. They are too clever and find a way to remove them.

              The Marketing and Sales department, Yeah, they cant get them off even if we told them how.

        • by azav (469988)

          I know a lot of people's kids who should be hooked up to a car battery rather than just an e-collar.

          Sometimes, one painful lesson is a much stronger NO that is needed.

        • You don't necessarily need to be shocking the dog. Many of the electronic collars (which the OP may not have been referring to at all, considering the other type of collar that's actually called an e-collar) have a "buzz" function that's just a high pitched dog whistle-like noise that you can use as positive punishment in a manner similar to using shocks, but without the cruelty. Obviously, you still have to provide an alternative and provide positive reinforcement for it to work, but if they're really stub
        • by jittles (1613415)

          E-collar? Put that on your kid and see how they react (or Children's aid). The latter two suggestions are the right answer. If you have to resort to shocking your dog then you are doing something wrong. Your second paragraph is very true, we are becoming more and more aware that animals are not purely instinct driven. Well they are but so are we, we just don't realize our needs and wants are just that.

          Hey buddy. I use a shock collar on my dog and I don't shock her at all. So you ask, why do I have it? Because she's a hound, and I like to let her roam freely whenever safety allows. The problem? She's a hound. She gets onto a scent and does not want to get off of it. She completely stops hearing my voice. Here is where the shock collar comes in handy. See it does more than just shock. I can also make it beep. And that beep snaps her out of her sniffing spree. It also works great when she's too far

          • Beep collar. Okay, that can work.

            I've had eight dogs over 35+ years, and tried to use a radio collar only once, and only for a brief time. There were RC hobbyists and ham radio nuts in the neighborhood and someone's equipment was causing false signals to the collar. Perhaps the new ones have better protection from that now.

            Every dog I've owned has been trained with a silent whistle in "Come", "Drop", and "Stay" commands. I carried the whistle on my key chain. Its effective range was over a quarter mile o

            • by jittles (1613415)

              Beep collar. Okay, that can work.

              I've had eight dogs over 35+ years, and tried to use a radio collar only once, and only for a brief time. There were RC hobbyists and ham radio nuts in the neighborhood and someone's equipment was causing false signals to the collar. Perhaps the new ones have better protection from that now.

              Every dog I've owned has been trained with a silent whistle in "Come", "Drop", and "Stay" commands. I carried the whistle on my key chain. Its effective range was over a quarter mile on open fields, far beyond my yelling distance, and comparable to the range of a radio collar. Advantages over the radio collar is that the whistle was always with me, there were no batteries to bother with, it was unaffected by water, it was not a potential noose (collars can get hung up on wire fences, etc), and the big one: with distinctive patterns of long and short blasts, it can deliver more than one command. Such as "Drop, Stay" when the dog had gotten on the other side of a busy road.

              High tech is kewl. Appropriate tech is better.

              So there are advantages and disadvantages to both technologies. We go to the dog park on a regular basis and there are often 8 or more dogs there. With the collar, I can get her attention only, and not bother the other dogs at the park. It is also waterproof (a must because my beast loves the water). It also has different channels, with support for up to 4 collars at a 300 yard range. I thought about the whistle, but it just wasn't ideal for the dog park. I've left the collar turned on for about 4 day

              • I left something out in my description of using whistle commands.

                I often had two dogs at a time. I learned early on that I needed a distinctive whistle pattern for each dog, basically a "Pay attention!" command, to be followed with the action command. So basically I gave each dog its own name in whistle-speak. The equivalent of teaching "Diogi! Come!" "Juna! Stay!"

                As Wolters said, the first command every dog needs to learn is their name. That is a command, and the command is "You, pay attention to me!" Sa

            • ... with distinctive patterns of long and short blasts, it can deliver more than one command.

              Your dogs know Morse code? I'm impressed!

        • by ozydingo (922211)

          I find too many people are quick to know that there understanding encompasses "the right answer" for all dogs. After the first year+ of trying hard and working with trainers to use redirection and positive reinforcement without and positive punishment, I have to say that the e-collar has been an indispensable tool for my dog. And yeah, I put it on myself to see what it feels like at various levels. It goes from 0 to 127, and I typically use it on him at 20. I've given myself a 60, and am very hesitant to go

          • I think there are a lot of dog trainers who are "positive reinforcement only" and probably ties into some kinds of animal welfare philosophy somehow.

            We went to dog training at the local humane society with our 10 month old rescue (half pit bull, half great dane, 95 lbs now at 2 years) and the focus was 100% on positive reinforcement.

            We found that for some behaviors it was just not effective -- ie, barking out the window at passers by. It worked well for some things like sit, stay, and come, but for behavio

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          E-collar? Put that on your kid and see how they react (or Children's aid). The latter two suggestions are the right answer. If you have to resort to shocking your dog then you are doing something wrong.

          Oops, I'd better take it off. Hold on while I take off his muzzle, remove his leash and collar, and put him back in his cage. Oh wait, like you, I just confused my dog with a person.

        • by plopez (54068)

          Tabasco or some other such sauce can work as well. And is cheaper.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          If you have to resort to shocking your dog then you are doing something wrong.

          It really really depends on the dog.

          A friend had a shitzu who wouldn't stop barking. Put one of those collars on it that zaps it, and it barks until it's practically cooked. Put one of those collars on it that sprays in its face, and it keeps barking.

          After she went through every technique anybody could recommend, she had no choice but to have the dog debarked. The dog never stopped barking -- leaves, shadows, wind, you name it

      • The other neat thing that dogs can do is figure out what you mean when you point at something, apes just can't seem to grasp this. NOVA did a documentary that attempted to qualify ape intelligence by showing the diffrences between human children and other animals. It was eye opening, particularly the use of tools and the crafting of weapons to kill prey by chimps. I think animals are a lot smarter then we give them credit for, anyhow here is a link: http://m.video.pbs.org/video/1200128615/ [pbs.org]

        Since becoming a dog owner I have been surprised by what he seems to understand. As you said, he understands what I mean when I point to something. But he has even followed commands the first time I have given them, with no training. The very first time I told him to go to bed, he hopped off my bed and got in his own. Once when I was walking him in the snow he got cold and wanted to go home. He started down the neighbors driveway and resisted me when I tried to get him to come back to the street. Fina

      • by Xest (935314)

        "The other neat thing that dogs can do is figure out what you mean when you point at something"

        I think it depends on the dog, my Lab/Collie crosses have no problem with this, but my parents Jack Russel/Doberman cross (yes, really, and no we don't know) just walks up and sniffs and then licks your finger if you point at something.

        I find dog intelligence does vary a lot from breed to breed.

        • Jack Russel/Doberman cross (yes, really, and no we don't know)

          Well, I can guess. I met a guy once who had a Dachshund/Doberman mix; I asked him how that happened and he said he got the dog from a breeder who specializes in this cross, and did it by holding up the male Dachshund behind the female Doberman while they did their thing. Neither dog seemed to object, so what the hell ...

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @07:21AM (#44359849)

      Stop chewing on your wife's best shoes and the dog will stop doing that too! Oh and also don't chew on the sofa cushions either.

      Also, it's a very good reason not to have sex with your wife in front of your pets.

    • Stop chewing on your wife's best shoes and the dog will stop doing that too! Oh and also don't chew on the sofa cushions either.

      I'm not allowed on the sofa :(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:10AM (#44358791)

    I know i shouldn't kiss the girl that owns him

  • MPIAA (Score:5, Funny)

    by codeButcher (223668) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:17AM (#44358809)

    I did not copy that song! I Swear! It was my dog!

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @02:26AM (#44358861)

    "Doggie see, doggie do" just doesn't have the same catch as "monkey see, monkey do".

    Especially the "doggie do[o]" part...

  • I've seen a scientific documentary that shows how crows can learn just by looking at other fellows and imitate them to solve practical problems.

    Human, apes and dogs are hardly the only species to do so.

  • fridge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    my old dog watched me open the fridge one day, and carried on doing it and emptying the contents until a child lock was put on it

  • by sjwt (161428) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @03:13AM (#44359047)

    So this is why I see many fat dogs lately..

  • Dogs are no dummies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Dogs have been scrutinizing us humans for 400 centuries, so they're experts at understanding our moods and behaviors.

    • by CSMoran (1577071)
      However, they have no way of passing this knowledge to their offspring, because we do not select them for human scrutiny. Unless you agree with Lamarck.
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        You are missing the word "consciously" in there somewhere.

      • ?????? My dog taught his pup a lot of things including how to swim. Sheepdogs are ideally trained by older sheepdogs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @03:48AM (#44359179)
    My cat imitates my actions, but then again he's a rare breed that has a reputation for acting more like dogs than cats. He's a Turkish Van [wikipedia.org] who barks (short, loud verbalizations to get my attention instead of the traditional "meow"), fetches (some other cats can be taught to fetch... Turkish Vans teach their owners to play fetch), and generally exhibits the behavior of a pack animal that wants the favor and attention of the alpha animal (the human).

    As for imitative behavior, he loves to watch me wash dishes. Turkish Vans are fascinated by water (in nature they swim for fun and fish for food), so he has to be on the counter watching whenever I'm washing dishes. He sees me apparently rubbing my "paws" together under the stream of water, and if I turn to put the dish in the drying rack, he will invariably start pawing at the stream of water, and then rubbing his paws together under the stream. He's invariably very confused because he doesn't understand what this accomplishes, but he keeps doing it because he sees me doing it.

    Cats have the intelligence to imitate behavior, but they don't exhibit it because most domesticated cats do not have the pack mentality. They do their own thing unless there is a reward for doing your thing. You hear about people teaching their cats to flush the toilet, but that's usually because they're fascinated by the "reward" of getting to watch the whirlpool. Turkish Vans and dogs, however, will do things because they see you doing it and they want to win your approval by doing what you do.
    • Cats are a product of their upbringing and environment, like many critters, people included.

      Cats that grow up in very active households tend to be very sociable towards strangers (same for "shop" cats). Cats that grow up spending their lives with someone who doesn't socialize much, tend to be more skittish of strangers. Cats that grow up by themselves tend to be more sociable towards humans; cats that grow up with another cat tend to be more social with the other cats (playing, following, snoozing, etc.) an

  • by Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @04:10AM (#44359233) Homepage

    Mimicry is perfectly standard behaviour for animals. There have been studies on how parents teach their offspring how to hunt dating back decades. This applies on land, on/under water and in the air. Most of the studies I have heard about involve mammals or birds, I can't remember any involving reptiles, fish or (in particular) insects. Some larger spiders may have this ability - ones large enough to eat small ground-nesting birds for instance
    .
    The article itself is more about adapting behaviour by watching humans and that is self-limiting, apart from speech there is not much useful a bird can learn that way. I have a neighbour who used to look after the garden before it was turned into a lawn. Back then he had a fan - a blackbird which would hang around when he was digging, waiting for worms to be unearthed. It presumably recognised my neighbour as non-threatening and the digging as the same thing it would do but on steroids.
    I was attacked by a goose a few years back. We were sitting outside and someone had fun throwing it scraps, closer and closer to me. It tried to drive me off by driving at me while hissing and flapping its wings. I joined in the fun by advancing on it, hissing back and 'flapping' my arms the same way. Communication was achieved, goose withdrew to a safer distance.

    • I was attacked by a goose a few years back. We were sitting outside and someone had fun throwing it scraps, closer and closer to me. It tried to drive me off by driving at me while hissing and flapping its wings. I joined in the fun by advancing on it, hissing back and 'flapping' my arms the same way. Communication was achieved, goose withdrew to a safer distance.

      You were lucky. Usually geese go for the legs in such situation. Especially if you wore shorts. Geese just love to pinch human legs...

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        And if you bend over, they will go for your eyes. Best to carry an umbrella into goose territory. Since they have poor 3d vision, they see the rapidly expanding umbrella as charging them.
        • And if you bend over, they will go for your eyes.

          Did you hope they'd go for your ass?

          Since they have poor 3d vision

          Maybe farting might help?

        • Or just clap your hands. I have yet to meet a goose that didn't run away from that. (I will get attacked by a pack of geese on the way home).
          • by Culture20 (968837)
            That works for a while, but geese get used to almost anything (even the umbrella trick). A green laser at dusk aimed at the ground near them will drive them bonkers, but unfortunately doesn't do anything during daylight.
  • Was wondering what the hell those dogs eat. They're always loafing around the house, stinking up the place with their nasty farts.

    Oh. Now I get it.

  • by azav (469988) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @06:35AM (#44359645) Homepage Journal

    Still won't do my taxes.

  • My 2 anecdotes are about chickens. I keep a couple of bantams, more as pets than anything else.

    At a stage the one hen hatched a batch of chicks. Because the chicks can't fly or hop much yet (I've seen adult chickens fly a remarkable distance quite gracefully, and hop over obstacles 2-3 times their height with a single wing flap, much like a human would use his arms for balance when hopping over something), they can't get onto the perch in their coop for the night, so mom and chicks slept on the ground. The

  • by smash (1351) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @07:01AM (#44359745) Homepage Journal

    My cats, both of them will attempt to do stuff like reach for the door knob to open closed doors. They are round knobs so they can't do it. But they know what they need to do. One of them has opened a bag of litter and knocked it over when we were out so she could do her business in it after the door to the room with her litter tray blew shut in the wind (I kid you not).

    Animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, a lot of the tests they "fail" is likely because they are simply differently motivated.

    • When my new-to-me dog had seperation anxiety while I was at work, she tried to break in by attacking the door frame ONLY around the side with the knob. She knew what part she needed to attack. She also points at the knob when she wants someone to open it. Camping we made the mistake of letting her see how the tent zipper worked and she would constantly unzip it go outside.
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday July 23, 2013 @08:24AM (#44360225)
    My friend's dog is always getting yelled at over voice chat because instead of going to bed at a normal time, she hops off the bed and watches him play Neverwinter. He plays on his TV with a controller and headset so the dog knows that he's playing with the controller. So she always licks it and bites at it because she wants to play too. One time he got up for a second and his character basically had a seisure that involved running around and falling off a cliff in game and it turns out she was messing with the buttons with her tongue. So she's not very good at Neverwinter but at least she tries to imitate him.
  • I'll have to remember that...

  • It is a measure of human hubris that we fail to note the fact of animal intelligence that leads to their mimicing us. Another common example of this is the tendency of cats to become vocal and develop novel utterances as a result of observing human speech and interaction. Any keen observer will note that cats. left on their own will not develop such behavior. Upon observing and interacting with humans, at first a cat will simply meow in an utterly feline way, but then it will begin to experiment with varous
  • Parrots are intelligent enough to watch what you do and copy your actions to duplicate the effect.
    You cannot leave keys near my parrot as he will get hold of them and try the keys in the padlocks on his cage until he unlocks them. He knows this as he's seen me do it.

  • He thinks he's people!

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