…a raft of experiments by Mr. Csányi’s team and another led by Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, showed that dogs were far more skilled then either chimps or wolves at using human social cues to find food. Those results left researchers with this question: If dogs can pick up on human cues, do they turn the tables and put out cues for humans to understand?
To find out, Mr. Csányi and Réka Polgárdi, a graduate student, went to the homes of Budapest’s many dog owners. After introducing the researchers to the dogs, the owners would leave the room. Then the dogs would watch Mr. Csányi hide a piece of food somewhere inaccessible to them. When the owners returned, the dogs would run or glance back and forth from master to hiding place, clearly signaling its location. More-recent experiments substituted nonfood objects and had similar results, which suggests the dogs may be placing themselves in their owner’s shoes, and realizing that the humans are ignorant of the object’s location.
The Hungarian researchers also discovered that dogs excel at imitating humans. In one of the laboratories down the hall from Mr. Csányi’s office, Zsófia Virányi, a post-doctoral researcher, demonstrates with Tódor, an enthusiastic little mutt that she hand-raised to serve as a member of a control group for another experiment. Tódor sits attentively as Ms. Virányi spins around in a circle and comes to a stop. "Csinal!" or "you do it!" she says, at which Tódor does a little 360 on the tiled floor and lets out an enthusiastic bark. He easily imitates Ms. Virányi’s bowing and lifting an arm (or paw, in his case).
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