You wave a treat in front of your pet pooch, cooing, “Who’s a good boy?” Your dog widens his eyes hopefully, pants, does a happy jig, and wags his tail. It’s like he’s trying to say, “I really am a good boy! Now gimme that treat!”
Interactions like this make it easy to assume that when we talk to our canine companions, they’re trying to communicate back. Because of their facial expressions and body language, “we get the impression that dogs understand everything we say to them,” says Juliane Kaminski. She’s an animal psychologist at the University of Portsmouth in England.
But are dogs really trying to talk to us? Kaminski and a team of scientists set out to investigate.