Ain’t It the Truth? Your Dog Will Know.

June 2, 2017 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

You may have heard that dogs are good judges of character. But did you know they can tell when people are liars?

Akiko Takoaka, Ph.D, of Kyoto University, conducted a study of 24 dogs. A researcher pointed to a container with food concealed underneath. All the dogs went to the container.

The researcher then pointed the dogs to an empty container after showing them that food was hidden under a different one. Finally, the researcher pointed the dogs back to the container with the hidden treat. But by this time, the dogs had learned the researcher couldn’t be trusted and only 8 percent went in the direction he pointed.

To see if the dogs had learned to distrust that specific researcher or all people, the first steps of the experiment was repeated, with a new person taking the place of the unreliable researcher in the last step. When the newcomer pointed to the container with the hidden food, the dogs went to the container—showing that they were still willing to give people a chance to prove trustworthiness.

The results suggest that dogs “…make inferences about the reliability of a human who presents cues and consequently modify their behavior flexibly depending on the inference.”1

In other words, they learn which people can be trusted, and they will respond accordingly.

Source: Takaoka A, Maeda T, Hori Y, Fujita K. Do dogs follow behavioral cues from an unreliable human?

Anim Cogn 2015 Mar: 18 (2): 475-83

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