Babies do it by the age of a year-and-a-half and, as studies have shown, so do capuchin monkeys. Now, in the continuing effort to understand canine psychology through science, researchers think that dogs can do it, too.

So what is this mysterious “it?” It is the tendency to judge others based on their altruism. That is, babies, monkeys, and dogs will all favor humans that they see helping other humans, especially when that assistance is given to their own humans.

A sense of fair-play

In short, dogs seem to have a built-in sense of fairness and will shun people they see as behaving unfairly either by not helping their human or by being selfish when it comes to an exchange.

The experimental set-up for the dogs was simple. Three humans, one the dog’s owner, knelt on the floor opposite the dog, with the owner in the center. The owner tried to open a container with a toy inside but could not, so they asked the person to their right to help. The person to their left was never asked to help and did nothing during this time.

The person on the right could either help the owner open the container or refuse. After this step, both of the people to either side simultaneously offered the dog a treat. In response, the dogs showed no preference when the person on the right was helpful. However, when that person was not helpful, the dog actively avoided them, preferring to take the treat from the so-called “neutral” person to their owner’s left.

What does it mean?

So what’s going on here? Based on human studies, it seems that dogs, being social pack animals, also try to avoid “bad actors,” that is other beings that do not cooperate, and gravitate toward those who show positive, social behavior toward others. This mechanism also accounts for how humans and dogs learn how to be “good.” Because this reaction to non-helpful individuals seems to be instinctual (it occurs in humans before they develop any kind of intellect), it can become an ingrained, visceral reaction to not playing along with the group.

The dog study was conducted by Hitomi Chijiiwa, et. al, at Kyoto University and was published in the journal Animal Behaviour. You can see video of the study in action here, courtesy of New Scientist.

Have you noticed your dog showing a bias toward or against people for being helpful or not? Tell us about it in the comments!


Comment on the Story Below

Related Posts

June 9, 2020

New Kitten Wakes Up Sleeping Husky With A Kiss

For the majority of my childhood, my pets were two cats and a dog. The

December 16, 2019

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy Someone A Pet For Christmas

While the thought of gifting a loved one with an adorable puppy for Christmas might

July 4, 2015

Mastering The Pack

One of the exercises that Cesar has everyone who attends his Fundamentals of Dog Behavior

Comments – Rules , Boundaries & Limitations

At Cesar’s Way , we strive to be a single pack, and packs have rules, and limitations. Here are ours for the comments:

  •  No bullying or harassment of fellow commenters. Keep it civil!
  • No foul language or obscenities, please.
  • No posting of external links

Also, please note that because of volume , we are unable to respond to individual comments, although we do watch them in order to learn what issues and questions are most common so that we can produce content that fulfills your needs. You are welcome to share your own dog tips and behavior solutions among yourselves, however Thank you for reading our articles and sharing your thoughts with the pack!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get Tips From Cesar & The Pack

Don’t get left out of the doghouse! Sign up now to make sure you’re up to date on the latest happenings!

Trending Today

Trending This Week

Get a Free e-Book:
5 Essential Commands
to Teach Your Dog