Research shows dogs are not only smart but may be able to pick up non-verbal cues

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Like most dog owners, April Ruiz believes her beloved "Ben" is a canine Einstein. Not just for verbal commands, Ruiz believes her pet is intuitive. (KFSN)

Like most dog owners, April Ruiz believes her beloved "Ben" is a canine Einstein.

"Ben's always been the type of dog who really pays attention to us."

Not just for verbal commands, Ruiz believes her pet is intuitive.

"When he encounters new situations, he really looks to us, or at least we feel he looks at us, and we really feel he looks to us for information."

To prove Ben can pick up on non-verbal cues, Ruiz took him to Yale Canine Cognition Center run by psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos.

Dr. Santos said dogs have much more social intelligence than previously thought.

"Dogs are very good at picking up on human social information, and they seem to be tracking the kinds of ways that humans are teaching them."

In fact, a new study reveals canines can follow commands such as pointing or gazing so well that dogs and toddlers "exhibited similar patterns of correlation in social cognitive skills."

In one test on Ben, a treat is hidden underneath containers-- the tester points to a certain one and Ben is able to follow the cue and get the treat.

"Dogs realize that pointing conveys important information and, in doing so, dogs are able to learn from the cues that we give them," said Dr. Santos.

"We weren't sure which way he would go, and it was really surprising to me, ya know, that he paid so much attention to what actions were being used," said Ruiz.

And it's not just pointing.

"They seem to process information about our emotions; they're kind of tracking when we're happy and sad. They seem to know something about our emotional expressions," said Dr. Santos.

Dr. Santos said canines can be a great model for human learning.

"I think a better understanding of how dogs learn and the kinds of way that they connect with humans can only help us treat our dogs better."

Psychologists said you can even test your dog's social savvy on your own at home by hiding a treat and pointing to or looking at that treat's location to see if your pet follows.

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