Monday, 26 September 2016

Your dog is watching you!

An interesting recent study seems to suggest that dogs have an ability to make judgements about the character and potential behavior of human beings based on watching the way these humans interact with one another.

That’s right.   This assessment is not based on interaction between the humans in question and the dog,  but on how the humans behave toward each other, as observed by the dog.  

The study carried out by animal cognition researcher Sarah Marshall-Pescini used a sample of 84 dogs,  and set up a structured situation in which the retrained dog was able to observe a very specific interaction between three humans.

Two of these humans were given bowls of aromatic sausage.   The other was given the role of begging a small piece of sausage from each of the two sausage holders.   The sausage holders were each given a different role.  One was selfish and refused to share.  The other was generous and shared with the beggar.   The ‘selfish’ person made clear dismissive shooing gestures towards the beggar.   The generous person said ‘have it’  as they offered the piece of sausage to the beggar.

At the end of this human interaction the beggar left the room and the dog was released to interact with the two food holding humans in the room.

The dogs chose to interact with the generous human five times more frequently than with the selfish one.   It is hard not to conclude that the dogs were able to make a reasonably accurate prediction on the future behavior of a human being,  simply by watching him interact with another human being.

Food for thought!

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