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'Pretty amazing phenomena' — Celebrity trainer Mark Vette hails new study into dog-human communication

Puppies are born with a built-in talent for responding to human gestures, according to new research.

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Mark Vette told Breakfast dogs are “very responsive to human hand gestures which other species aren’t”. Source: Breakfast

Up to 40 per cent of a puppy’s ability to communicate comes down to its genes.

Animal behaviourist Mark Vette told Breakfast today the research was based on about 375 service dogs who were tested to find out “how to raise them better and how to be able to make better service dogs”.

“Dogs, of course, have co-evolved with us for some 40,000 years and that co-evolution has adapted them to be able to relate to us and understand our gestures and our postures and our gaze,” he said.

Vette says because dogs are “postural communicators” who study people's gaze and posture, visual cues are a “great way to animate them into a behaviour that we want them to do”.

“It’s critical that we do as much of that through the formative period because 80 per cent of their brain wires up in that two- to four-month period so this is when most of the stuff’s happening for a dog in terms of their development.

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Up to 40 per cent of a puppy’s ability to do so comes down to its genes. Source: Breakfast

"That’s really critical that you get that formative period going — [it] grows their brain and increases their ability to relate to us and, of course, that’s the absolute shaping period in life."

The dog trainer says the research is good news for training service dogs.

"Think of a blind dog walking a blind person through a city. It's a pretty amazing phenomena, isn't it?" he said.

"It means there has to be a synergy and a coherence in our relationship. That is really sophisticated and, of course, that's the beauty of dogs."