A new study shows how man's best friend might be even more human-like than we thought.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that dogs are able to read our "communicative intent" -- that is, our intention to interact with them -- via our faces, an ability that very young humans possess.
"Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs' social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a 6-month to 2-year-old child in many respects," study researcher Jozsef Topal of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. "The utilization of ostensive cues is one of these features: dogs, as well as human infants, are sensitive to cues that signal communicative intent."
To test this theory, Topal and his colleagues tracked the eye movements of dogs as they watched video recordings of humans turning toward plastic pots.
When the person said "Hi dog!" in a high-pitched voice and looked straight at the dog, and then turned toward the pot, the dogs were more likely to look at the pot, compared with if the person just said "hi dog" in a low-pitched voice and avoided eye contact.
"Our findings reveal that dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously attributed only to human infants," Topal said in the statement.
However, Deleta Jones, a dog trainer from California, told MSNBC that she doesn't think the finding means dogs have evolved in any certain way to interact with humans -- rather, that's just how they interact with anyone, whether it be dogs or humans.
"When they learn verbal commands, they are learning a foreign language," Jones told MSNBC. "Dogs normally speak through body language and facial expression. It's more natural to them."