Dogs and Babies Have Similar Responses to Human Communication


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Gaze Following is Part of Dog–Human Communication. Photo by Marvin Kuo

The Role of Eye Contact and Voice in Communicating With Dogs

Making initial contact by looking at the dog and calling out resulted in more consistent response from the dog, in this latest research.

When presented with a video of a person turning to look at one of two identical pots, the dogs more often looked at the pot when the human in the video looked straight at the dog and called “Hi dog” in a high pitched voice before turning to look at the pot.

When the person in the video avoided eye contact and spoke the words in a low tone before looking at the pot, the dogs were less likely to look at the pot.  This is similar to the response patterns found in human infants during gaze following studies.

The Family Dog Project Studies Human-Dog Relationships

Dog trainers have long recognized the importance of getting a dog’s attention through eye contact and voice, but the work of the Family Dog Project has shown that this is an evolutionary social skill, which dogs developed over their long, close association with humans.

Their ongoing research continues to shed insight into the human-dog bond and the evolutionary adaptations that have made it so strong.

Established in 1994, the Family Dog Project is dedicated to better understanding human–dog relationships by looking at ways in which human and dog behavior, in addition to canine evolutionary adaptations, have strengthened the connection between the species.

The Dogs for Humans project uses this information to improve the education of the assistance dogs they provide for disabled people.

Dog-Human Relationships

Between projects such as the Family Dog Project and research such as the dog communication study by Teglas, et al. published today, humans improve our abilities to communicate with, and appreciate, our canine friends more every day.


Teglas et al. Dogs’ Gaze Following Is Tuned to Human Communicative Signals. (2012). Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.12.018. Accessed January 5, 2012.

Kubinyi, et. al.  Comparative Social Cognition: From wolf and dog to humans. (2007). Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews.v2:26-46. Accessed January 5, 2012.

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