Home / Science and Tech / Here’s Scientific Proof That Dogs Can Tell if a Person Is Reliable or Not

Here’s Scientific Proof That Dogs Can Tell if a Person Is Reliable or Not

By KK Angus, 24 June

You know dogs are terribly loyal and will do everything in their power to make their master’s life easier. A dog is, in every way, a man’s best friend. And it has been relentlessly claimed by scientists that dogs are one of the most intelligent animals, and might even be smarter than dolphins. But are dogs a better judge of people than humans? Can they actually tell good people from the bad?

A study conducted recently investigated whether dogs can tell if someone is lying to them. Mainly, if they could identify untrustworthy people from the trustworthy ones and the results might shock you. Read on:

1Dogs might know

Over the years several studies have reported that dogs can actually sense what a person is feeling at any given point of time. The studies found that dogs can tell happy faces from angry faces and disappointed faces and can thus, know what you are feeling. Dogs can also sense subtle emotions like jealousy which you obviously don’t always show. The studies have also revealed that once a dog decides whether a person can be trusted or not, they treat them differently.

Dogs might know

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2What was the study?

A study was conducted by Akiko Takaoka of Japan’s Kyoto University, in which Takaoka and his colleagues attempted to find out if a dog would ever trust a person who has lied to them. They created a three-part experiment to understand if dogs can tell if a person was untrustworthy. The group of scientists claims that the study can be a breakthrough in animal behavioral studies and found that dogs, especially, prefer to know for certain if they can trust a person.

What was the study?

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3How it works

The experiment had to be designed on a simple format so that clear conclusions could be figured out based on the results. Here is how it progressed. People who own dogs would point to a container which had food, and the dog would obviously run towards the container. Next, they would point to a container without any food and the dog would run towards that too. So, the people made sure the same cues were given out to the dogs both times.

How it works

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4But the third time

It was seen that after the second cue, the dogs would not follow the cue and would not approach the container its master tells it to go to. Mainly because they did not trust their masters after a lie. 34 dogs were part of this extensive experiment and interestingly Animal Cognition Journal confirms that, they all reacted the same way. Basically the dogs relied on their own experience with their owners to determine if they can be trusted.

But the third time

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5Dogs can tell

Takaoka says that dogs determine whether a person is reliable depending on the cues they give out. If the command checks out, dogs end up trusting the person who gave out the cue. They are also curious to find out if new people they meet can be trusted which is why the experiment showed that the dogs followed the new person with quite a lot of interest as they were trying to figure them out.

Dogs can tell

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6What we know

Previous experiments have told us that dogs usually approach anything that there master points at, and a simple cue is all it takes. The relationship between dogs and their owners are based primarily on gestures since that is the main form of communication. But when the cues get inconsistent and when the dogs can’t keep up with what their masters are trying to tell them, they get nervous and don’t trust their owners.

What we know

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7With wolves

Takaoka actually wants to resume the experiment with wolves as they resemble dogs in many ways. This experiment proved that not only are dogs curious about how things work but also observe their owner’s interactions with other people. In certain cases they want to control how other people behave with their master, which is why they are often jumpy when their owners visit new people.

With wolves

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8This is what they do

Dogs usually show if they don’t trust somebody. They wouldn’t take a treat from people who behaved aggressively towards their owners. Especially if they raise their voices or any form of physical altercation is involved. Dogs, in fact, preferred to interact and engage people who helped them or their masters at some point of time. Earning a dog’s trust can be tricky but you’d fare well if you were just yourself and did not attempt anything too sudden.

This is what they do

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9What Takaoka says

Dogs develop depending on their interactions with humans, especially since their intelligence is so keen and observant. "Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans,” said Takaoka. John Bradshaw of the University of Bristol said that dogs like it when things go as planned and as they had predicted and don’t respond well to erratic events.

What Takaoka says

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10Another study

A study conducted by Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews concluded that dogs are especially observant of new people, especially if they are engaging with their masters. As part of the experiment, dog owners asked 2 groups of strangers for help. The dogs responded well to the group which bonded with their owners and thus categorised them as reliable, since their owners trusted them. And they did not respond to the people who behaved unpleasantly with their masters.

Another study

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11What Bradshaw says

"Dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them often have behavioural disorders. Dogs are almost information junkies,” Bradshaw said. Dogs, being highly intelligent creatures obviously seek out new information and they are particularly curious about new people they meet or their owners meet. In fact the last part of the experiment can be explained by a dog’s need to learn more about its surroundings.

What Bradshaw says

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12A dog owner’s findings

For instance, dog owner Victoria Standen gained some insight on her pet. Victoria owns a collie named Cassie which has proven to be one of the smartest dog breeds. When they are out for a walk, her dog sits at a certain crossroad, and will wait to see which way its owner takes her. "I've taken to pointing which direction and after she looks that way, she looks back to me to check it's okay to run off," says Standen.

A dog owner’s findings

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13Her dog is perceptive too

Victoria also confirmed that when people interacting with her showed themselves to be untrustworthy, and also not being a food source for the dog, her collie would not engage them and avoid them. Bradshaw agrees that dogs are intelligent but their brain works differently than man’s. "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,” says Bradshaw.

Her dog is perceptive too

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14Dogs can read expressions

It’s been proven through earlier experiments that dogs can totally tell how you are feeling based on your facial expressions. In fact, they only decide if they will follow our cues based our gestures and expressions, which should tells us that they are highly perceptive, especially if put up to a task. They are also especially sensitive to their owner’s feelings and try to figure out how they are reacting and why they are reacting in a certain way.

Dogs can read expressions

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15They are not just following orders

Dogs are not mindlessly following commands and Brian Hare, chief scientific officer at Dognition agrees. "They evaluate the information we give them based in part on how reliable it is in helping them accomplish their goals. Many family dogs, for instance, will ignore your gesture when you point incorrectly and use their memory to find a hidden treat,” says Hare.

They are not just following orders

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