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10 марта 2018, 05:15

Dogs Know (Sorta) What They’re Smelling

Stay on target

Dogs are famous for their camaraderie, vigilance, loyalty, and sense of smell.

But what exactly do they expect to find at the end of a scent trail?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology , canines create a “mental representation” of their target—be it a chew toy, contraband substance, or human being.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and the Department for General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, found that dogs are surprised if what they’re hunting for differs from what they expect.

The team, led by Max Planck researcher Juliane Bräuer, tested 48 dogs—25 trained police or search-and-rescue animals and 23 family pets.

Each pup followed a scent trail drawn with one of two toys. At the end of the path, they found either the trinket used to lay the track (normal condition), or the other toy (surprise condition).

“From my experience in other studies, I had assumed that the surprise would be measurable, in that dogs would behave differently in the surprise condition than they would in the normal condition,” Bräuer said in a statement.

“In fact, quite a few dogs showed interesting behavior, especially in the first round of the surprise condition, which we called ‘hesitation,'” she explained. “Although they had obviously noticed the toy, they continued to search via smell, probably for the toy that had been used to lay the scent trail.”

That hesitation, however, disappeared in subsequent tests. Perhaps because the dogs were rewarded for playing games, regardless of which toy they found. Or due to a lingering scent, despite the room being cleaned.

Still, this goes a long way to proving that tail-waggers do have a concrete expectation of their target when tracking a scent. It just might not look like the yellow tennis ball or brown bone humans perceive.

“The comparison between working dogs and family dogs was also interesting,” Bräuer added.

Although the police pups were expected to—and did indeed—retrieve items faster than family dogs in the first round, by the time the experiment ended, both groups operated equally quickly.

Additional studies should help clarify the exact connection between smell perception, search behavior, and cognition.

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Source: https://www.geek.com/science/study-dogs-know-sorta-what-theyre-smelling-1733017/?source=science