Dogs might be more attentive to a human’s behavior than you would expect. A study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews suggests that dogs can tell when a human behaves badly to other people and use this information to decide how to interact with the people around them.
The study involved several dog owners that were asked to act out a little scene and have their pets watch. The participants were asked to pretend that they tried and failed to open a container. Then, they had to turn to two researchers who acted as bystanders and ask them for help.
One of the two researchers had to act passively each time, while the other either helped the participant or refused to do so. Then, each researcher offered the dog a treat.
In the case when one of the bystander helped the participant open the container, the dogs showed no preference for one of the researchers. That is, they did not necessarily favor the one who helped over the passive one.
In the second case, where one of the bystander was acting rude, the dogs showed a clear preference. They chose to take the treat from the passive one and kept away from the bystander with the bad behavior.
A similar outcome was obtained in a similar research that involved capuchin monkeys. They also showed the same so-called repulsion towards people who refused to offer help when they were kindly asked to do so.
The researchers declared that dogs behave similarly to human babies. They have a strong sense of morality and show emotional reactions to people who have an antisocial behavior. James Anderson, a researcher in animal behavior at University of Kyoto in Japan, talked about how both humans and animals come to understand these concepts of right and wrong.
Humans have this primal sensitivity towards antisocial behavior. It is present even from an early age and, through education and social development, it grows into a sense of morality.
Dogs might have their obnoxious moments, when they do things they know they are not allowed to do, but it does not mean that they do not have some sort of basic sense of morality towards the humans that surround them. They are amazing companions that are worthy of all our love and understanding.
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