Since the beginning of time, dogs have proven themselves to be one of the most loyal creatures to walk on our planet. People all over the world have shared incidents wherein their dogs do something incredible and sometimes even managed to save their lives. Indeed, dogs have proven themselves to be man’s best friend.
However, despite of the friendship between dogs and human beings through the ages, it seems that there are still a lot of things about our paw friends that we are not much aware of. One of these, is the groundbreaking discovery of a group of researchers in Japan. Showing that dogs know more than they let on.
In a study conducted by a group of researchers led by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University, Japan, it was discovered that dogs are capable of discerning whether a person is worthy of their trust.
The experimental study was participated by 34 dogs and was composed of three rounds. In the first round, the experimenters would point out to a container with a hidden food inside. The dogs, knowing how to follow body cues, would run towards the appointed container and indulge on the treats.
In the second round, the same experimenters would point out to a container, but this time no food was stashed inside. All of the dogs would run towards the empty container, only to be disappointed for there was no hidden treat inside.
In the third and last round of the experimental study, the same experimenters would point out to a container with a hidden food. However, this time, the dogs didn’t run towards the container anymore. This suggests that the dogs remembered the time that they were mislead, and assessed whether the person leading them is a reliable guide or not.
According to the lead researcher, Akiko Takaoka, it is surprising how the dogs devalued a human’s reliability in a matter of short time. Showing how they can use their previous experience to discern if a person is reliable or not.
“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans,” Takaoka said.
Takaoka’s study is not the only experimental research proving a dog’s ability to tell if a person can be trusted or not. In a separate study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, dogs were able to demonstrate their ability to decide whom they can trust by mere observation.
The experiment was divided into three participants, one group for dog owners, one group for strangers who will help, and another group of strangers who will not help. The study requires the dog owners to ask for an assistance from the two group of strangers.
As it turned out, dogs are good readers of social cues as well. Not only were the dogs hesitant around the strangers who did not help their owners, they did not accept any dog treat from them as well. All of the dogs involved in the study, did not want to do anything with the people who ‘mistreated’ their owners.
“They evaluate the information we give them based in part on how reliable it is in helping them accomplish their goals. Many family dogs, for instance, will ignore your gesture when you point incorrectly and use their memory to find a hidden treat,” Brian Hare, the chief scientific officer at Dognition, says.
The groundbreaking conclusion of the two separate studies, reflect a lot of truth to Bill Murray’s words, “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”
Clearly, dogs are very intelligent and complex creatures just like us. They are capable of understanding and reading human gestures and social cues. This proves that they are not mindless creatures who simply listen, for they know whom to trust!