At the Behavioural Ecology Group we study a range of behaviours in companion dogs (Canis Familiaris). Although the last years we frequently focused on owner-dog interactions, we are currently more interested in what happens inside the head of the dog itself (and how this is influenced by that interaction). Our current line of research therefore mainly focusses on the social intelligence of pet dogs.

What emotions do they feel, how do they communicate with us and what do they understand of both other dogs and of us, humans? Most of these studies take place at our research facilities in Carus, on the campus of Wageningen University & Research, but we sometimes make use of in-home studies as well.

The current main question we are focussing on is ‘how much do dogs understand of humans?’. In some ways, dogs outperform all other species in understanding humans. They outperform our closest relative, chimpanzees, and their closest relative, wolves, in understanding our pointing gestures or body language. They understand our emotions and know when we are attentive or not. They can follow our gaze – even around barriers – and understand that we cannot see through solid walls, whereas we can see through transparent objects. This suggests that dogs understand that what we see can differ from what they may see. This understanding is special since we are a completely different species than dogs are. We are currently aiming to find out if dogs’ understanding of humans stops at our gestures, perspectives and attentive states, or if they also understand that seeing something leads to knowing something. Additionally we are interested in the driving forces behind this understanding. Do pet dogs understand us well as a side-effect of domestication, is this the result of years and years of socialization, or is it simply the way some dogs are raised or trained by their owners that make them well-able to read us?

Are you a dog owner and interested in participating in behavioural research with your dog?

Look at for our current research or email to We are very happy to welcome you and your dog!