Why Kids Don’t Understand Dogs Well

Over the centuries of coexistence, dogs have learned to understand people very well. How does it look the other way around? Can children correctly interpret the facial expressions of dogs? Science provides the answers.

In a recent study, researchers examined the factors that influence how well we understand dogs – one finding showed that the culture we grow in is also critical.

In addition, age and experience with dogs play an important role. While all participants were very good at recognizing anger and happiness in dogs, the children were not good at reading all other emotions. This finding suggests that the ability to understand how dogs are feeling is not innate, but acquired.

Behavioral Scientist: Children are Surprisingly Poor at Understanding Dogs

One of the co-authors of the study, Juliana Breuer, told Der Spiegel: “It could be assumed that we have a predisposition. But, apparently, there is no such thing. Otherwise, the children would not have done so badly. ” Obviously, people only learn to read dogs during their lifetime. Her conclusion: “Of course, the most important thing is how surprisingly it is difficult for children to recognize the emotions of dogs. That it is not congenital. This is what you have to learn – and you can too. ”

Their research showed that you don’t need your own dog to learn to understand animals. It is enough to live in a society where you can see dogs in the park or on TV. “Obviously, dogs are born to understand us. But we’re not that good with dogs, ”says behavior researcher and canine research director at the Max Planck Institute in Jena.

By the way, dogs have facial expressions that we humans can interpret more easily than others. For example, almost all respondents admitted aggression. It also makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, according to Julian Breuer: She suspects that humans, in general, can recognize predatory aggression that could theoretically be dangerous to them.

Better Understanding of Dogs

Why is the question of whether children can understand dogs and to what extent is so important? Unfortunately, it is young children who make mistakes when they communicate with four-legged friends without realizing it and without getting angry. Therefore, parents should never leave children under six years of age unattended with dogs. Children are less able to assess the danger – in the worst case, the dog can bite if it is too threatened by a small person.

Julian Breuer hopes future research will help us learn more about the understanding between dogs and humans. “Hopefully this will help us reduce the number of negative incidents between humans and dogs. Incidents mostly happen when people cannot interpret the dogs’ signals. ”

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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