Dogs are incredibly intelligent, we all know that… but they might be smarter than we think.
Apparently, according to new findings, dogs can sense if you’re untrustworthy.
A team lead by Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University in Japan conducted a study that found that once a dog has decided that a person is untrustworthy, it stops following the cues they give.
Researchers followed the theory that if a person points to something, a dog will run in that direction and sniff out what they’re being directed towards.
So, they put the idea to the test.
The investigation involved scientists pointing to various different containers, some filled with food, some without.
At first, the researchers pointed to a tub full of food, which the dog ran to without hesitation.
Then, they repeated the experiment with an empty tub.
The dog ran over to it once again but found it empty.
When the team encouraged the dog to go to the container a third time, it refused to go, seemingly knowing the person wasn’t reliable based on their previous experience.
Each time the experiment was carried out on 34 different dogs, the pattern was repeated.
This told the researchers that dogs know when we’re being dishonest with them based on a previous experience.
The study explained: “Dogs are known to consistently follow human pointing gestures.
“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.”
Akiko Takaoka – who led the study – said: “Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought.
“This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans.”
The study highlights how dogs like things to be predictable, says John Bradshaw, a veterinary scientist at the University of Bristol.
He said: “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.”