Your dog can tell if you’re untrustworthy, science says

Sinead Butler
Thursday 10 June 2021 16:52
Science and Tech

Who knew that our dogs could tell if we’re untrustworthy?

(Getty Images)

Our four-legged friends are far more aware than we could have imagined.

According to scientists, our pooches can sense if we’re trustworthy.

A study by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University in Japan shows that a dog stops following someone’s cues if it decides that person is untrustworthy.

She told the BBC: “Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought.

“This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans.”

Researchers tested whether a dog will run and sniff out what they’re being directed towards when a person points to something in that particular area.

Of course, we all know that dogs are motivated by one thing - food.

So, the study involved scientists pointing the dogs towards to various different containers, some filled with food, some without.

Firstly, the researchers pointed to a container full of food, which the dog ran to immediately.

Then, they repeated the experiment with an empty container - and the dog ran over to it again only to find its empty contents.

On the third go, the dog refused to return to the container when it was encourage to do so.

Therefore, it appears that a dog is able to tell that the person who had previously given it an empty container wasn’t trustworthy.

And this wasn’t just a one-off, because the same pattern happened with 34 different pups.

So our furry friends are able to tell if we can be trusted based on a previous experiences.

“Dogs are known to consistently follow human pointing gestures,” the study says.

“In this study, we asked whether dogs ‘automatically’ do this or whether they flexibly adjust their behaviour depending upon the reliability of the pointer, demonstrated in an immediately preceding event.

“These results suggest that not only dogs are highly skilled at understanding human pointing gestures, but also they make inferences about the reliability of a human who presents cues and consequently modify their behaviour flexibly depending on the inference.”

John Bradshaw, a veterinary scientist at the University of Bristol who wasn’t part of the study says the results highlight how dogs like things to be predictable.

Takaoka added: “Dogs are very sensitive to human behaviour but they have fewer preconceptions

“They live in the present, they don’t reflect back on the past in an abstract way, or plan for the future.”

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