Dogs avoid people who are mean to their owners

Dogs avoid people who are mean to their owners
PHOTO: AFP

Most dog owners will tell you that their pets are loyal, socially intelligent animals.

And last month scientists in Japan showed domestic dogs avoid people they have seen behave unhelpfully to their owners, using a cunning test.

The experiment was designed to see whether dogs can evaluate humans interacting with one another over an object.

The result showed most dogs avoided taking food from someone they had seen behaving negatively to, which in this case means ignoring, their master.

During the test, dogs watched their owners try to retrieve a roll of tape from a sealed, transparent container, and then turn to an actor sitting next to them to request help.

In the first scenario the "nonhelper" actor refused to help and turned away.

In the second experiment, the "helper" held the container steady when asked for help, while the owner opened the lid and retrieved the object.

And in one further "control" test, the actor turned away but was not asked for help by the owner.

For each scenario, a neutral person sat on the other side of the owner, and did not interact in the activity.

Immediately afterwards, the actor and neutral person offered the dog food. Dogs tended to avoid the "nonhelper" actor, who had behaved badly to their owner, and more frequently took a treat from either the "helper", the "control" actor or from the neutral person.

However the dogs did not take food more often from the "helper" compared with the "control" actor or neutral person.

Fifty-four dogs - from a variety of breeds - and their owners participated in the study, which was published in the journal Animal Behaviour in June this year.

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