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Scientists have found 'strong evidence' that dogs use gestures to communicate



  • Researchers at the University of Salford got 37 owners to film their dogs
  • They analysed the footage and pinpointed what the pooches were saying
  • Jumping, licking and lifting a paw are ways dogs indicate they want food
  • Rolling over, nosing leg and turning head were among gestures identified 

By Phoebe Southworth For Mailonline

Published: 05:27 EDT, 16 June 2018 | Updated: 08:16 EDT, 16 June 2018

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Scientists have found 'strong evidence' that dogs use gestures to communicate with people in one of the first systematic attempts to decode their language.

Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester began a mission to uncover what pooches are trying to say with subtle signals and more overt gestures.

They signed up 37 dogs and their owners who then filmed their four-legged friends' every-day movements. The footage was analysed to see what they were trying to say.

Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester found that lifting a paw  and jumping up and down were some of the ways dogs show their owner they are hungry
Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester found that lifting a paw  and jumping up and down were some of the ways dogs show their owner they are hungry
Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester found that lifting a paw  and jumping up and down were some of the ways dogs show their owner they are hungry
Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester found that lifting a paw  and jumping up and down were some of the ways dogs show their owner they are hungry

Researchers at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester found that lifting a paw and jumping up and down were some of the ways dogs show their owner they are hungry

Scratch me please! The researchers found that when dogs roll over they could be asking for their owner to tickle their tummy
Scratch me please! The researchers found that when dogs roll over they could be asking for their owner to tickle their tummy

Scratch me please! The researchers found that when dogs roll over they could be asking for their owner to tickle their tummy

Rolling over, lifting paws and jumping up and down were among the 19 gestures analysed in the study.

Asking to be scratched, for a door to be opened, a toy to be fetched and for meals to be served were some of the requests the scientists believe they were making.

Unsurprisingly, dogs have many ways of indicating they want food - including jumping, turning their head, lifting their paw, rubbing their nose and licking.

THE TOP FIVE DOGGY COMMUNICATIONS

1. Rolls on back/noses leg - 'Scratch me'

2. Puts paw on a door - 'Open it'

3. Holding out a paw - 'Get my toy/bone'

4. Jumping/turning head/lifting paw/nose-rubbing/licking - 'Give me food'

5. Flicking toy in front of people - 'I'm hungry'

Flicking a toy around in front of people was also identified as dog speak for 'I'm hungry' in the study, which was published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Sometimes dogs use a variety of signals in order to get their message across if it is not understood the first time, the study showed.

And different dogs were found to use different signals for the same request.

For example, a dog might roll on their back or nose their owner's leg when asking for their tummy to be scratched.

The most common gesture identified by the scientists was the 'head turn'. 

This is when the dog looks from a human to an object to show that they are interested in it.

It appears that most of the time the object of interest is their food bowl.

The researchers concluded this 'head turn' gesture indicated that dogs were 'potentially adept at using referential communication'.

THE 19 WAYS YOUR POOCH IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING

1. Roll over

Rolling onto one side of the body and exposing the chest, stomach and groin

2. Head under

Plunge headfirst underneath an object or human

3. Head forward

Move the head forwards and up to direct a human’s appendage to a specific location on the body

4. Hind leg stand

Lift front paws off the ground and stand on hind legs, front paws are not resting on anything

5. Head turn

Head is turned from side to side on the horizontal axis usually between a human and an apparent object of interest

6. Shuffle

Shuffle whole body along the ground in short movements, performed whilst in roll over position

7. Back leg up

Lifting of a single back leg whilst lay on one side of the body

8. Paw hover

Hold one paw in mid-air whilst in a sitting position

9. Crawl under

Move entire or part of body underneath an object or a human’s appendage

10. Flick toy

Hold toy in the mouth and throw it forwards, usually in the direction of a human

11. Jump

Jump up and down off the ground, human or an object, usually while staying in one location

 

12. Paw reach

Placing a single paw or both paws underneath another object to retrieve an object of apparent interest

13. Nose

Pressing nose (or face) against an object or human

14. Lick

Licking an object or human once or repetitively

15. Front paws on

Lifting both paws off the ground and resting them on an object or human

16. Paw rest

Lifting a single front paw and resting it on an object or human

 

17. Head rub

Involves rubbing the head against an object or human on which the signaller is leaning on

18. Chomp

Involves opening the mouth and placing it over the arm of a human whilst repeatedly and gently biting down on the arm

19. Paw

Lifting of a single front paw to briefly touch an object or human

 

Source: Animal Cognition

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