Stray Dogs And Human Gestures

Stray Dogs And Human Gestures

Domesticated dogs aren’t always the brightest bulbs in the shed—er, fancy house, rather. I’ve seen purebred pooches bounce their heads off windows to get at rabbits on the other side of the glass. We all love a house trained puppy, but maybe common sense isn’t our go-to descriptor for the happy (spoiled) little fluff nuggets.

Stray dogs, on the other hand, have always seemed wiser than their wealthy cousins. Maybe it’s because they aren’t often handed their food in literal silver bowls. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the luxury of cowering from thunder in a permanent shelter. If you don’t already hold them in high regard, here comes another reason to be impressed by the common street dog.

According to a recent National Geographic article, stray dogs have been found to innately comprehend human gestures. The most useful of these gestures is the finger point, which free-roaming dogs tend to interpret as a sign that they should pay attention to the place that the human is motioning towards. 

Stray dogs are smart! This is incredibly useful information for those of us who come across stray dogs on a regular basis. Imagine this scenario: you’re walking down the street with your little brother when you see a stray dog in your path. You’re a little nervous about the safety of your brother, you spot a stick on the pavement and pick it up slowly.

“Hello stray dog,” you say gently. “Here is a stick for you.”

Then you throw the stick and you point to it. The dog gets up and wanders over to the stick. See? You’ve given him a reason to stay away from you and you’ve given him a fun new toy to play with. 

The fact that stray dogs are smart may also be useful information to use in conversation with your mom because, as you know, she thinks stray dogs are emotionless, evil things and he sometimes kicks at them. New scenario: you’re walking with your mom down the street.

“Mom,” you say. “Have you read the National Geographic article about stray dogs?”

You, of course, have read the entire article and know exactly what you’re talking about.

“No,” she says.

“Well,” you say, “this study came out in January based on stray dogs in Indian cities who were monitored relative to their understanding of human gestures, and it suggests that stray dogs can innately comprehend what human movements mean because these dogs try to analyze whether humans want to hurt, feed, or pet them.”

“Okay,” your mom says.

“In conclusion,” you say, “dogs are more like humans than you think they are. And you should stop kicking at them.”

It’s the perfect argument, and you win it without even a little resistance from your mom. Good job!

In all seriousness, though, stray dogs are animals like domesticated dogs are. Animals just want to survive. Approaching you may be their attempt to gain a basic need like food or water. Though it’s best to exercise caution around stray dogs at all times, do your best to understand the needs and wants of these free-roaming animals. Communication is the first step to coexisting with any creature in a peaceful manner.

Source: National Geographic, Frontiers in Psychology


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