Dogs and Mean People

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have run tests on 18 dogs to see their response who are mean to their guardians. Their interest is in discovering whether dogs sense when people are responding what they feel is inappropriate to their humans.

The dogs were divided into three groups and each dog guardian was accompanied by two people unknown to the dogs.

In the first group, the guardian asked one of the persons for their help in opening a box. As instructed beforehand, the person refused to help. The second person remained neutral.

In the second group, the guardian asked for and received help from one person while the other remained neutral.

Neither of the persons in the third control group were asked for help by the dog’s guardian.

Afterwards, the dogs were offered food by the unknown persons. Most of the dogs refused food from the persons who would not help the guardian. The dogs accepted food fairly equally from the persons who helped and those who remained neutral.

The researchers observations were that if the dogs were acting only in their own self interests, there would be no differences in the three groups and food would be accepted from any of the unfamiliar persons.

Dr. K. Fujito, professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University said that not all primates demonstrate this behavior. Fujito observed “we discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest.”

Could this mean that when my dogs demonstrate dislike of certain people, they are aware of things unknown to me? Anything is possible since we all know how adept our dogs are at reading body language.

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