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Dogs reject 'unkind' strangers, study finds

Tuesday June 16th 2015

A dog knows when someone is being unkind to its owner, according to a Japanese study.

Researchers from Kyoto University carried out an experiment in which three groups of 18 dogs watched their owners interact with two strangers.

In the first group, the owner asked one of the strangers for help, which was refused. In the second group, the owner asked for help from one of the other people and received it.

In both of these groups, the third person was neutral and did not lend a hand or refuse to help. In the third group, neither of the strangers interacted with the dog's owner.

Following the box test, the dog was offered food by the two unfamiliar people accompanying its owner.

Dogs that saw their owner being snubbed were much more likely to take food from the neutral observer and ignore the person who had refused to help, the study says.

The findings suggest that dogs have the ability to co-operate socially, a characteristic found in only a small number of species, including humans and primates.

Copyright Press Association 2015