Dogs are a bunch of clever-clogs

Dogs may be aware of what their owners are looking at

source: Claire Ainsworth
New Scientist December 16 2000 p20

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, have examined the behaviour of dogs to assess whether it changes if dogs are being watched. Dogs were left with treats in front of them that they were told not to eat. The dogs usually obeyed, until the person went out of the room, and then rapidly ate the treats. The researchers also tested dogs to see if they were more likely to steal the treats when someone was present and not looking at them, and found that this was the case. Different levels of distraction were tested, with the person's eyes shut, or the person using a computer, for example. The dogs used different strategies according to how distracted the person appeared to be. They were more likely to use an indirect approach, rather than going directly to the treat, if the person appeared to be looking at the dog, and less likely to if the person was playing on a computer. Dogs can work out what humans are able to see, and may be able to put together their past experiences to solve new problems. Dog behaviour appears more complex than simply automatic responses that are learnt.