The primary cue indicating a human’s communicative intent is eye contact, and the primary cue indicating a human’s intended communicative action is also eye contact. This shows that eye contact is very important in dog-human interaction.
Another study showed that dogs use communicative gestures much more when there is eye contact, and that name-calling has no effect on their performance. Similar results were found in puppies that had very little human interaction.
Studies also show that human gaze is important to animals not only when they are trying to do what their owners tell them to do; dogs also stare at their humans in situations of conflict and uncertainty. Research suggests that staring is a learned behavior, as humans positively reinforce dogs by comforting them when they seek reassurance from their owners.
A study by Shannon Kundey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and psychopharmacology at Hood College, found that dogs are able to predict human behavior simply by observing how they interact with each other, as Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Ph.D., of the University of Milan, noted in her study. Dogs pick up signals by observing the body movements and vocal cues of humans interacting with each other, and can identify the friendliest person in a group, which makes the dogs friendlier to that person.
Human body language is also important for communication with dogs. Kaminski’s results show that when a dog communicates with humans, it is more likely to point to a place than to a thing, but usually because the place contains something the dog wants, such as its toy.
Research shows that dogs are able to interpret human gestures as imperative commands to do something, or as information because their human is pointing to the information the dog is looking for. This type of communication is most effective when it comes to telling dogs where to find certain things, such as food or toys, but not when it comes to telling them what they should or should not do, such as sniffing another dog.