A new study published in the journal Animal Cognition and conducted by a team of scientists at Kyoto University in Japan has found that dogs can determine whether or not a person is trustworthy based on the gestures or cues that person provides the dog with.
The experiment was conducted on 34 dogs and involved three rounds of testing. In the first round a researcher pointed to a container of food, to which the dogs responded by checking out the snacks on offer. In the second round, the same researcher pointed dogs toward an empty food container, disappointing their hungry bellies. In the third round the same researcher once again pointed to a container full of food, but interestingly, the third time fewer dogs responded to the pointing cue, suggesting they didn’t believe or trust the researcher’s indication of food.
Lead researcher Akiko Takaoka then decided to try the same round again, but this time with a different researcher doing the pointing. This time, the dogs responded to the researcher’s pointing gesture towards food.
Akiko wrote in the report that the experiment “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 behavior flexibly depending on the inference."
"Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans."
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