The jig is up!

By Meghan Overdeep
December 20, 2019
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If you think you’ve been fooling your dog by telling him you’re all out of treats, think again. According to new research, dogs have a basic understanding of quantities, which means they totally know you’ve been lying to them. (Though, to be fair, dogs have been known to lie to us too.)

While they might not be able to count to 10, it turns out that even untrained dogs have an innate sense of quantity, so they know roughly how many treats you’re holding.

In the new study, Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, and his team recruited 11 dogs of various breeds to see whether they could find brain activity associated with numbers. The dogs were (miraculously) trained to lie down in an FMRI scanner while researchers measured their responses to different spots displayed on a screen. Eight of the 11 dogs passed the test. Interestingly, slightly different brain regions lit up in each dog, which, Berns says, is likely due to the fact that they were different breeds.

“Our work not only shows that dogs use a similar part of their brain to process numbers of objects as humans do—it shows that they don’t need to be trained to do it,” Berns said in a news release.

They really are brilliant!

Researchers believe that the study, though small, is likely to be of the most interest to dog trainers, because it suggests dogs may pay more attention to the number of items presented as rewards.