Two Competitors

Photo by: Barry Bland

An interesting comparison that tests these two hypotheses involves the comparison of dogs with other species outside the Canidae family. While some studies have tested dogs’ closest living relative, the wolf, more studies have compared dogs to humans’ closest living relative, the chimpanzee. “When dogs and chimpanzees are compared directly, dog’s outperform chimpanzees in how successfully they use human given communicative cues” (Kaminski and Nitzschner 2013, Hare et., al 2002).


Chimpanzee vs. Dog Study

The most recent study involved twenty chimpanzees and sixteen dogs and compared their ability to react to a pointing gesture that indicated which of two objects to fetch (Kirchhofer et al., 2012).

This data showd that dogs used the human’s pointing gesture to select the correct object more successfully than the chimpanzees.


Trial 1

The first trial involved the animals facing a person as they pointed to which object they wanted the animal to grab. “While the dogs had no problem using the human’s pointing gesture to select the correct object, the chimpanzees ignored it while making their decision” (Kirchhofer et al., 2012).

Trial 2

In contrast, the second trial was the opposite. The animals were now facing the objects and could not see the pointing gestures given by the human. The results were similar as the dogs were still able to select the correct object while the chimpanzees had more trouble.

This outcome indicates the sophisticated social-cognitive abilities dogs possess and indicates a role domestication may have played in these differences. Although this experiment may seem to question the abilities of chimpanzees, there is no doubt that this species possess advanced cognitive function compared to other animals.

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