This just in: dogs really do have our best interests at heart. The evidence? A fascinating study conducted in Japan, in which researchers created social scenarios with dogs and their owners, plus two strangers who was instructed to behave either helpfully, neutrally, or disagreeably. Here’s what happened…
With their pack mentality, we know canines are attuned to social scenarios, especially involving their owners. As a member of a group (whether human or canine), it’s their job to pay attention to the social dynamics at play. This is why, for example, if a scuffle breaks out in a dog park, the other dogs will quickly rush over to see the commotion.
But just how nuanced is their ability to read the room? According to the University of Kyoto, dogs are “extremely sensitive to social signals from humans” and are quickly gathering information on who they can and cannot trust. In the study, 54 dogs were divided into 3 groups, with the same scenario and slightly different outcomes. In each test, the dog owner was instructed to struggle with the lid to a clear jar. A bystander/stranger was then instructed to either assist and successfully open the lid, or refuse help and abruptly walk out. Meanwhile, another bystander was instructed to stand nearby, acting neutrally and disengaging by looking down at the ground. After the test was completed, both bystanders were instructed to reach into their pockets and simultaneously offer a treat for the dog. Across the board, the dogs showed significant negative bias against the “non-helpers” in the various situations. This is especially remarkable considering the jar had little to no importance or value to the dog, they were simply looking out for the humans.
And there it is! What do you think? Are you surprised by this study or not at all? Please feel free to discuss in the comment section below.