PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You may not always be able to teach an old dog new tricks but they’re smart enough to know that, according to a new study. Researchers have found that dogs, like humans and chimps, are clever enough to know that sometimes they don’t have enough knowledge to solve a problem and will go out of their way to find information to help them.
The study, titled “Metacognition in dogs: Do dogs know they could be wrong?”, observed 48 dogs without the presence of their owners. The dogs ranged in the breed, age, and whether or not they had prior obedience training.
Researchers, from the Max Planck Institute, then placed a reward behind one of two fences and tasked the dogs to find it.
One of the major findings was that the dogs involved in the study checked more often when they did not know where the reward was hidden.
This act of checking indicates that dogs are aware that they don’t know enough and need to explore more before making a choice.
“We know that smell is very important for dogs and we could see that they were using it,” states co-author Juliane Bräuer.
Researchers are aware, though, that more exploration is needed to definitively say whether dogs are aware of their intellectual strengths or weaknesses.