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Dogs Judge You Based On How You Treat People: Study

Your dog probably knows when you’re being a jerk — and judges you for it.

A new study showed that canines, as well as monkeys, probably know when someone is being nice or rude, and use that information as they decide on how to interact with the humans surrounding them.

This might be a peek into our sense of morality, when human studies also demonstrate that by age 1, human babies already begin to judge people by how they interact. This points to a sort of innate morality predating our behavioral training, New Scientist reported.

Naughty Or Nice?

A Kyoto University team led by psychologist James Anderson tested how other species make similar evaluations, so they first tested if capuchin monkeys would prefer people who help others. An actor struggled with a container-opening act, while a second actor either helped or refused to help. Both of them afterward offered each monkey food.

When the second actor was helpful, the monkey made no preference on where to receive the reward. But when he was not, the monkey usually took food from the struggler.

In another test, the researchers sought to know whether dogs preferred individuals who helped their owner. An owner who tried to open a container was faced with (1) an actor who either helped or refused, and (2) a passive one. When the two actors tried to offer the dog a reward, the dogs showed no preference when the first actor helped their owner. However, they tended to choose the passive actor if the first actor refused to lend a hand.

“If somebody is behaving antisocially,” said Anderson, “they probably end up with some sort of emotional reaction to it.”

In humans, he explained further, a basic sensitivity around antisocial tendencies develops into an actual sense of morality as one grows up and becomes taught. Dogs’ longstanding relationship with humans, too, has made them very sensitive to our behavior not just toward their kind, but other humans as well.

The findings were discussed in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Other Furry Findings

A wealth of other studies on dog lends insight on the dynamics of human-canine relationships. For instance, people usually talk to their dogs like they’re human babies, and research suggested that the furry friends actually respond most readily to this directed speech when they are babies, with the slower tempo and higher pitch helping them better comprehend motives in communication.

Puppies then appeared to better react to dog-directed speech than their older counterparts, which may perceive the information in a different way based on the tone. And if human beings emerge as social animals tending to help each other during tough times, dogs also exhibited in research a similar behavior in terms of sharing food with others.

A study in Austria discovered that even dogs, not differently from chimpanzees and rats, displayed a pattern of generosity with their own kind during harsh situations. It portrayed the canines as preferring partner dogs, although the difficult task at hand may have influenced such predisposition to share.

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