London: A new study claims that dogs instinctively copy their owners' behaviours and movements. "This suggests that, like humans, dogs are also subject to ''automatic imitation". They cannot inhibit online the tendency to imitate head use and/or paw use", Discovery News quoted lead author Friederike Range and her colleagues from University of Vienna.

For the study, all the dogs received preliminary training to open a sliding door using their head or a paw. The dogs then watched their owners open the door by hand or by head. The dogs were next divided into two groups. Dogs in the first group received a food reward whenever they copied what the owner did. Dogs in the second group received a food reward when they did the opposite.

All of the dogs were inclined to copy what the owner did, even if it meant receiving no food reward.
"This finding suggests that the dogs brought with them to the experiment a tendency automatically to imitate hand use and/or paw use by their owner to imitate these actions even when it was costly to do so," the authors report.

The results indicate that the range and intensity of their developmental training by humans plays a powerful and specific role in shaping their imitative behavior. The study is published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

(Agencies)

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