It’s a classic television trope: Timmy has fallen down a well! Lassie can’t save him herself, so she runs to find help. Actually, Timmy never did fall down a well in the entire run of the TV show, but the idea that a dog could seek help from a human for help does have a solid basis in science.
In what’s known as the “unsolvable task” experiment, a dog first learns how to open a puzzle box with a tasty treat inside. The puzzle is then secretly switched for another that’s impossible to solve. After becoming frustrated, dogs shift their attention away from the puzzle and onto a nearby human, and then back to the puzzle. The dog attempts to shift the human’s attention to the puzzle as a request for help. Human infants do the same thing. Such efforts are called “referential communication.”
So if dogs behave this way,