(Time) Over the past half-century, the tools of neuroscience have revealed much about the workings of the human brain. Now researchers are pushing forward in a new frontier: exploring what goes on in the mind of man's best friend. The study of canine cognition has taken off in recent years, energized by new findings about how dogs learn words, numbers and abstract concepts — and how they manage us, their ostensible masters.
In a study published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers used a procedure known as "preferential viewing" to show that dogs can understand simple calculations. Eleven pet dogs were shown treats that were then placed behind a screen. When one treat, and then another, was placed behind the screen and the screen was removed, dogs gazed briefly at the two treats. When two treats were deposited behind the screen but only one remained when the screen was taken away, the dogs stared at the lone treat for longer, indicating that they were aware the math didn't add up.