Once dogs lose faith in a person they usually don't take their instructions seriously.
We've known for years that dogs are highly intelligent and loyal animals. Now a study has shown that they can even judge whether a person is trustworthy or not. Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan experimented with 34 dogs where they were given different cues. "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 behavior depending upon the reliability of the pointer, demonstrated in an immediately preceding event," reported the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition. The animals were pointed towards three different containers at different times by a person. In the first round, the dogs found a container with food but the second time around, they only found empty containers.
Your dog can tell if you’re untrustworthy, science says https://t.co/g72nh8D50W— The Independent (@Independent) June 10, 2021
When the same person pointed a third time to another container with food, the dogs seemingly lost interest and didn't follow the cue. Akiko Takaoka, one of the researchers on the team, stated this was because the dogs used their previous experience with the experimenter to assess whether they were reliable or not, reports BBC. Strikingly, when a new person repeated the same experiment, the dogs followed them with renewed interest—they would put their faith in a new person but beware not to break their trust. "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 behavior flexibly depending on the inference," the study added.
Takaoka told the channel she was surprised that the animals were so quick to devalue the "reliability of a human." She added, "Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans." John Bradshaw from the University of Bristol in the UK, said the results stem from a basic trait in dogs. They like predictability than the uncertain. If the latter takes place it will lead to stressors and aggressive and fearful behavior in them. "Dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them often have behavioral disorders," said Bradshaw who was not involved in the experiment. Explaining their renewed interest when the experimenter was changed, he added was due to a dog's fascination with doing new things, "Dogs are almost information junkies", added Bradshaw.
While dogs are intelligent but there's a difference between what that means for them and humans. "Dogs are very sensitive to human behavior 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," added Bradshaw. Brian Hare, chief scientific officer at Dognition, said, "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.” Victoria Standen, who owns a collie, said the experiment results come as no surprise to her. During walks, her dog will sit and wait for her at a junction for her cues as to where to go.
"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," said Standen.