Female dogs judge human competence and are more likely to approach those who are able to accomplish tasks for them, according to a study from Kyoto University in Japan.
In the study “Female dogs evaluate levels of competence in humans,” Japanese researchers examined how both male and female dogs reacted to “competent” and “incompetent” people attempting to open containers of food.
The study used 30 dogs in the experiment and they each sat individually in front of both actors. Each competent and incompetent actor had a clear container with a lid on it. The “competent” human was instructed to easily remove the lid while the “incompetent” person was asked to struggle and fail in removing the lid. This was also repeated with two more containers: one containing food and one that was empty.
The study found that the female dogs stared at the “competent” human significantly longer than the male dogs. The female dogs were also more likely to approach the human that did not make mistakes.
The authors suggest that the female dogs can recognize “a human’s competence and adjust their behaviour based on their evaluation.” Researchers also noted that age, neuter status and the type of container used had no impact on the dog’s decision making.
“This result suggests that dogs can recognize different competence levels in humans, and that this ability influences their behaviour according to the first situation,” the researchers wrote. “Our data also indicate that more attention should be given to potential sex differences in dogs’ social evaluation abilities.”
Compared to primates, domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) have adapted to living in human society through an evolutionary process . Dogs were the first domesticated animal, starting from around 30,000 years ago. During this long process of co-existence with humans, dogs have acquired relatively sophisticated abilities to read human behaviour and communicate with humans. They also have innumerable opportunities to learn about human behaviour through direct and indirect interactions with humans, making it conceivable that dogs socially evaluate humans on a daily basis. These considerations make dogs a highly suitable nonhuman species in which to study “eavesdropping” on humans
Dogs are also sensitive to third-party interactions as shown in previous studies involving dogs in a food sharing context. Although in these studies dogs preferred a “generous” experimenter who gave food to a begging person over a “selfish” experimenter who withheld food, it is possible that dogs simply remembered the one who was previously associated with food. To address that concern, in a previous study dogs were tested in a helping context that did not involve food. Dogs watched as their owner tried to open a container to remove an object inside the container, but after failing to open it the owner asked for help from one of two people sitting beside them. In the Helper condition the actor assisted the owner, whereas in the Non-helper condition she refused to help and simply remained still and neutral throughout these interactions. After the interaction, the actor and the neutral person each offered a piece of food to the dog. The finding was that dogs avoided the non-helper in favour of the neutral person, whereas they did not show any preference for the helper vs. the neutral person. This asymmetrical preference reflected a “negativity bias,” which is the avoidance of a negative (mean) partner in favour of a positive response.
The findings of this study definitely showed that female dogs were more interested in the skillful person but the scientists can only assume and guess as to why. Some of the reasons may have to do with the added maternal and social responsibility females have to raise their puppies so they have a benefit in determining skilled members of the pack. Additional studies will be used to look deeper into
Study Source: National Library of Medicine