Like Us Humans, Dogs Shun People Who Are Bad

February 13, 2017


Yes, our doggos are even more similar to us than we previously thought. Have you ever noticed that your pooch pays less attention to some of your friends?

That’s because dogs can tell if a person is mean.

As many dog owners already know, our canine friends far too often act like us humans.

They are able to read and react to facial expressions, express jealousy, display empathy, react to music and television, and now new studies have shown that they can sense when a person is bad. According to National Geographic dogs have “picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago.”

“In particular, paying attention to us, getting along with us, [and] tolerating us has led to particular characteristics that often mirror ours,” says Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory.

The Experiment

During the study published in Animal Behaviour journal, scientists tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container. The dogs were divided into 3 groups:

  • Helper group,
  • Non-helper group
  • Control Group

In the first group, the dogs saw their owner asking another person for help, and actually getting it. In the non-helper group, the owner’s request for help was rejected, with the person turning their back. In the control group, the person turned their back without being asked for help. During the entire experiment, there was a third, “neutral” person sitting in the room.

Now, the second round of this study involved the neutral person and the helper or non-helper both offering treats to the dogs, and that is where things got interesting.

In the non-helper group, canines most frequently favored the neutral person’s treat, shunning the person who refused to help their owner retrieve the tape. On the other hand, in the helper group, the dogs did not favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other.

This exact behavior scientists previously observed in human infants.

So, next time your pooch shuns someone you know, think twice before trusting them completely and unconditionally.

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