My housemate and I have long suspected that my dog, Scoobs, is a far better judge of character than perhaps we realise.
And it’s living in the tumultuous word of online dating that’s really bought this idea to the fore for us. I remember one particular evening when an ex boyfriend and I had a minor fight about whether or not we were still speaking to people on Tinder. I’d gotten upset by his presumptions of my textual infidelity and refused his advances for the rest of the evening. We went to bed, and when we woke up the next morning, Scoobs had protested his displeasure at my ex’s behaviour by urinating in his shoes. The sight of my ex placing a plastic bag over his foot so he could wear them home to change before starting work did nothing but fill my hound with tail-chasing joy. He didn’t look guilty in the slightest.
Well, it turns out, there may be some science to back up our suspicions.
Recent research published in the journal of Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews indicates that dogs are capable of making a judgement as to a person’s character – specifically if that person if being horrible to another human they are fond of. Dogs then use this information to determine how they respond to someone who is being mean, as well as to the person who is on the receiving end.
During the study, dog owners were asked to act out different scenarios while their beloved pets watched on. They pretended to struggle to open a container before asking two researchers to help them. In the first scenario, one researcher stood by and did nothing while their colleague offered to help. In the second, one researcher continued to remain passive while their colleague refused to help.
After the acts were played out, both researchers offered the dog a treat. Interestingly, the dogs were just as likely to take a treat from both researchers in the first scenario, but were significantly more likely to ignore the one who refused to help in the second.
In conclusion, the researchers suggested that the dogs were able to tell if someone wasn’t being helpful and make a judgement.
Just how sophisticated this judgement is, the study does not go as far to investigate. But we’ll certainly be taking cues from Scoobs regarding dates in the future. And moving any stray shoes away from the floor.
Originally published 11th April 2017