We’ve all tried the trick where we pretend to throw a ball and see if our dog will run after it. What happens? Instead of chasing a pretend ball, they turn around and stare at you like you’re foolish. Now, science has proven that not only will they not believe you when you’re telling a lie, but your dog will also stop believing you when you’re telling the truth.
In a pair of studies, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan, it was proven that dogs can quickly develop distrust for certain humans, and they can harbor that distrust for quite a while. Akiko Takaoka is the lead author of the studies.
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He began the first study by selecting 24 different dogs and giving each one 2 containers. One of the containers held treats and one was empty. During the first phase of the test, researchers would stand in between the two containers and point to the one full of food. The dogs would then go to eat the treats.
In the second phase the dogs were paired with the same researchers they had for the first phase. The researcher would point to the empty container trying to confuse the canine. In the third phase the same researcher would again point to the container with the food, but only 8 percent of the dogs went to it.
The study suggested that once tricked, the dog learned to distrust the researcher they were working with. To prove his theory correct, Takaoka performed a second study. For this one, he brought in 26 different dogs.
The first two phases of the study were the same, but for the third the researcher was replaced with a new person that the dog had never seen. The new person pointed to the container of food and all 26 dogs ran to it and began to eat. Thus proving that they did not lose trust in all humans; only the one that had deceived them.
Researchers were astonished that dogs learned to devalue the dependability of the humans so quickly. The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, proves that the social intelligence of canines is much greater than previously believed.
Researchers who participated in this study believe that the social intelligence of dogs has evolved over their long history with humans. Dogs enjoy consistency because they like to know what is coming next, and when humans try to trick them they quickly learn which ones can be trusted and which cannot.