Dogs are one of the most intelligent animals alive. They have a natural connection with humans and understand many of our behaviors.
However, even though you knew your dog was brilliant, you probably did not know how intelligent they could actually be.
There are a few abilities that dogs have that we can almost guarantee you did not know. Some of these will surprise you and make you look at your doggy in an entirely new way.
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Your Dog Might Have a Favorite Paw
If you have a dog, you must have taught them to give their paw. But have you noticed which paw they give you first? Right or left?
We all know humans have a preferred hand. Almost 90% of the human population is right-handed.
As it turns out, your dog, too, might have a favorite paw. Or at least a preferred one.
Researchers have performed several tests to determine if dogs also have a preferred paw use.
The results might be surprising to a lot of you.
They found that, on average, domesticated dogs tend to have a preferred paw rather than be ambilateral (similar to what we call ambidextrous in humans).
However, unlike humans who have a rough 90-10 split in hand preference, dogs’ paw preference seems to be evenly split.
This means whether a dog uses their right or left paw varies from one pup to another.
For complex tasks like balancing a toy, dogs used both their paws equally. But, for repetitive and trained behaviors like giving their parents their paw, they used one paw more than the other.
A few studies also hinted that female dogs tend to be more right-pawed and male dogs are more likely to be left-pawed.
Brain anatomy and how the dog is feeling emotionally could also dictate their paw usage, other researches suggest. For example, left-pawed dogs seemed to be more pessimistic and negative-emotioned than right-pawed dogs.
Your Dog Might Know When a Treat Is Coming
If you have trained your dogs, you know your dog understands the consequences of some actions. For example, they understand that by doing some action after getting a command, they will get treats.
However, could your dog also understand your intentions behind your commands? Could they also know whether you intended something or just did it accidentally?
A study suggests so.
A team of researchers in Germany conducted “unable vs. unwilling” research on 51 dogs using treats to get some insight into this.
In the experiment, they put the dogs behind a transparent barrier and asked an experimenter to feed them food through a small opening.
They did this in two ways.
The ‘unwilling’ or ‘intentional’ condition was to withdraw the treats immediately after giving them.
The ‘unable’ or ‘unintentional’ condition was to bring the treats close to the opening but “accidentally” drop them on their own side.
A Jack Russell Terrier surrounded by apples
In both these cases, the treat remained on the human’s side, and the barrier was closed immediately. But in the ‘unable’ condition, the human “tried” to give the dog the treat again but was “unable.”
The dogs displayed behavior that suggested they understood when the treats were meant for them and when they were not.
In the unwilling condition, the dogs waited longer before approaching the treat than in the unable condition.
Further, the dogs sat or lied down and even stopped wagging their tails before approaching the treats in the unwilling condition. This reaction was similar across dogs of all sizes, breeds, and sex.
Thus, the researchers concluded that dogs can probably detect whether you did something purposefully or by accident.
Your Dog Might Catch You in Your Lies
Ever lied to your dog? They might just know you are doing so.
Lie detection and mental assessment have long been a subject of interest among humans. However, a team of researchers at the University of Vienna tested to see if dogs could also detect lies.
They conducted an experiment involving 260 dogs and bowls of treats to see if our four-legged best friends could detect our fibs.
The experiment was such: all the dogs were taught to follow instructions from a stranger. The stranger then advised the dogs to choose one among two bowls for hidden treats.
At this stage, if the dogs followed the advice, they got the treats.
Then, the researchers changed things up a bit.
In the second stage, They allowed the dogs to watch as a second stranger moved the treats from one bowl to another. The first stranger was absent when this happened.
After the switch-up, the researchers repeated the first experiment.
The results were: the dogs ignored the first stranger’s advice when they were not present during the switch-up. This meant they knew the stranger did not know where the treats were.
However, more importantly, the dogs ignored the first stranger’s advice when they were present during the switch-up but knowingly misled them. This indicated that the dogs knew the stranger was lying to them.
So, the next time you think of deceiving your dogs with treats, think twice. Who knows? They might even have a three-strike system in their heads.
Your Dog Probably Knows When You’re Stressed
Has this ever happened to you?
You return home from a difficult, stressful day at work. And when you enter through that door, your dog is immediately more cuddly and understanding of your mental state, even though you might not look distraught.
We all know our dogs can understand when we’re visibly distressed and try to soothe us. But can they recognize our stress even when we do not physically display those emotions?
As it turns out, they most probably can.
In September 2022, a study concluded that dogs can pick up stress signals from just your smell. A team of scientists at the Queen’s University Belfast and Newcastle University conducted this research.
For this, they took sweat and breath samples from 36 participants — one baseline sample and one after a mentally stressful task.
The four dogs who participated in the experiment were first familiarized with the stress samples in separate containers. Then, the baseline and stress sample containers were combined to see if the dogs could distinguish between the two.
The result was: yes, they could.
In 720 total trials, the dogs identified the stress samples from the mix at least 90 percent of the time. Also, the accuracy rate was around 93 percent.
This means your dog can probably tell when you are stressed, even if your face does not show it.
New scientific researches on dogs happen frequently now. Each of these seems to bring new findings and insights to light about dogs and their mental capabilities.
And with every research, we find more and more evidence that dogs are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.
So, the next time you assume your dog will not understand something you are doing or think of tricking them, reconsider.
Because they just might!
For more dog-related insight, read our comprehensive dog parenting guide or tips on how to pick the best dog breed for you.