What do dogs think about the toys? Many of the dog lovers might have asked this question several times arid now a group of scientists have found an answer to this.
In the study published in the journal of Animal Cognition, researchers from the Family Dog Project (Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest) found out that dogs have a “multi-modal mental image of their familiar objects. This showed that when dogs think of an object, they imagine the object’s different sensory features. For instance, the way it looks or the way its smells. One of the leading researchers of the study Shany Dor said that if one can understand which senses the dogs use while searching for a toy, it might reveal how they think about it.
“When dogs use olfaction or sight while searching for a toy, this indicates that they know how that toy smells or looks like,” the researcher said,
Earlier studies showed that only a few uniquely gifted dogs can learn the names of objects. In the first experiment, the researchers trained three Gifted Word Learner dogs and ten typical family dogs (i.e., dogs that do not know the name of toys), to fetch a toy associated with a reward. During the training, dogs received treats and were praised for choosing this toy over a few distractor toys. The researchers then observed how the canines searched for the targeted toy, always placed among 4 others, both when the lights were on and off. They saw that all the dogs successfully selected the trained toys, both in the light and in the dark. However, it took them longer to find the toys in the dark.
In the second experiment, only the Gifted Word Learner dogs participated. Here, the researchers aimed to find out what these dogs think about when they hear the name of their toys. Further explaining, co-author of the study Dr. Claudia Fugazza noted that revealing the senses used by the dogs to search for the named toys gave the possibility to infer what these dogs imagine when they hear. The Gifted dogs successfully selected the toys named by their owners in the light and the dark. This reveals that, when they hear the name of a toy, they recall this object’s different sensory features and they can use this “multisensory mental image” to identify it, also in the dark, Fugazza said.
Though dogs have a good sense of smell, they preferred to rely on vision and used their noses only a few times, and almost only when the lights were off, said Prof. Adam Miklósi, head of the Department of Ethology at ELTE University and coauthor of the study.
“Dogs sniffed more often and for longer in the dark. They spent 90% more time sniffing when the lights were off, but this was still only 20% of the searching time”. The research is part of the Genius Dog Challenge research project that aims to understand the unique talent that Gifted Word Leamer dogs have.