A recent study has revealed that dogs notice if someone has been mean to their human and will purposely ignore them when it comes to social interactions. In other words, dogs do not like people who are mean to their humans!
The study’s findings were revealed by a group of scientists at Kyoto University. Researchers had 18 dog owners try to open a box. During this exercise, the dog owners were accompanied by strangers and the dogs observed the interactions.
There were three groups with two strangers in each group, and in each group one of the helpers did nothing to help and did not interact with the dog’s owner (they were neutral).
In the first group, when the dog’s owner sought assistance opening the box, the non-neutral “helper” actively refused to help. In the second group, the helper stepped up and helped the dog’s owner open the box. And in the third group both people were neutral and did nothing.
After the interactions, the strangers would offer the dogs treats. This is where the findings got interesting. The majority of dogs refused treats from the person who was mean to their owner. They would only accept treats from the neutral person. In the other groups where there were only neutral or friendly participants, dogs would accept the treats.
Kazuo Fujita lead the experiment and said, “We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest.”
In other words, the dogs chose to side with their humans in a show of solidarity and support rather than enjoy a tasty treat.
Fujita added, “This ability is one of key factors in building a highly collaborative society, and this study shows that dogs share that ability with humans,” he said.
This study suggests that dogs have emotional intelligence that few other species have. In fact, humans don’t begin to show this behavior until about age three.
The study appears in the science journal “Animal Behaviour”, published by Amsterdam-based Elsevier.
Reference: H Chijiiwa, H Kuroshima, Y Hori, JR Anderson, K Fujita, 2015, Animal Behaviour 106, 123-127