DOGS seem to instinctively copy their owners, research shows. Yawning is not only contagious for fellow humans but for our canine companions too. In one study, puppies were placed sitting face to face with a person they had never met before; when the person yawned, the majority of pups yawned back.
Hard as it is to believe, it would seem this propensity to copy people is at times even greater than a dog’s desire for food!
In Australia, dogs were trained by their owners to open a sliding glass door using either their head or paw. Half were rewarded when they opened the door the same way their owners did and the other half when they did it the opposite way.
Dogs were more motivated to open the door as their owners had than to open it differently and get a treat.
This demonstrated that dogs automatically imitate hand movements with their paws and mouth movements with their muzzles.
Dr Friederike Range from the University of Vienna in Austria suggested that the way people interact with and play with their dogs as they are growing up shapes their ability to imitate in a phenomenon known as ‘selective imitation’.