I am sure that by now, your every social media feed will be full of “What the Fluff” video, where owners play a game of Peekaboo only to end with a cruel twist. The owners surprise their pets by suddenly disappearing, leaving them (the pets) puzzled. The action and reaction are then captured and uploaded hoping that it may go viral. For humans, these videos pose light-hearted pranks, a moment of happiness in an otherwise cruel, cold world.
While all this seems game and fun for us, unquestionably, but ever wondered about the ongoing thoughts in the dog’s mind? Do they think they’re playing the game of hiding and go seek? Or do they assume that daddy’s dead? Let’s know what scientists have to say.
Professional dog trainers say that the “What the Fluff” is an illustration of dogs’ exhibition of object permanence: the awareness that objects exist although not visible. For newborn babies, they don’t have the understanding of object permanence. Therefore, peekaboo proves to be a source of unending entertainment. The game loses its fun once they realize that mommy’s simply hiding behind curtains.
Scientists have known ages ago that unlike newborn babies, dogs acquire object permanence. Thomas Zentall and his team of animal cognition experimented by using a similar methodology of “What The Fluff”. They showed a bone to the dog, then hid it behind the screen, again swapping it with a different colored bone, then revealing the new bone. The dogs spent a long time looking at the bone when the bones were swapped as compared to when the bones were not swapped. The dogs were baffled with the disparity, proving that they demonstrate object permanence.
Dogs are at least smart as a 1 or 2-year old babies, as babies too demonstrate object permanence by around 1 or 2 years of age. However, this is just one example of intelligence. Scrutinizing canine performance on different human perception test allowed psychologists to gain better insights into the difference between human and dog intelligence.
For instance, dogs have been shown to comprehend about 200 words, that are equivalent to the intelligence of a 3-year-old child. Dogs are known to be socially advanced again which is equivalent to an adolescent human. On contrary, they miserably fail in self-recognition tasks like recognizing themselves in the mirror, which babies master at 18 months. Considering all these reports, a psychology professor at the University of British, Columbia, Stanley Coren explains that a dog’s intellectual level is roughly equivalent to a 2.5-year-old child.
So what does a dog think when its owner vanishes in the thin air? Similar to the academic psychologists, Zentall too carefully treads the topic of emotional attachment. Although animals are capable of displaying emotions, it is really difficult to know the underlying emotion from an obvious expression. However, humans also tend to show such traits.
While talking about envisaging human emotions into animals, we can make the comparison as relevant as possible. To understand how dogs might feel when daddy disappears behind the blanket, we should do the same thing with a group of babies. Thankfully, netizens have already done this for us. The results? Are the babies too traumatized like the dogs? Meh, they’ll forget it.