Recently I heard a fascinating story that suggests dogs probably know when a person is lying. We know that they can pick up a person’s emotional state and apparently there’s research that indicates dogs can determine whether a person is trustworthy.
Even though dogs may seem like they categorically love everyone, that generally applies to those who treat them well in return. When you mistreat a dog too many times, he will probably lose trust in you and may not respond to your commands.
It’s said that dogs can be good judge of character, which no doubt is based on their observation skills and the fact that they’ve practiced living with us humans for the past 10,000+ years.
The ability to pick up on emotional cues and level of trustworthiness could mean the difference between life and death for dogs which probably adds to their ability to discern whether or not someone is ‘lying.’
Research recently published in the journal Animal Cognition revealed that dogs “learned” when a person wasn’t trustworthy and then no longer followed their commands. The study led by Akiko Takaoka, Ph.D. of Kyoto University, had all dogs go to a specified container pointed to by a researcher that had some food hidden under it.
The researcher then pointed to an empty container after showing the dogs that food was hidden under a different container. In the final phase, the researcher once again pointed toward the correct container with the hidden food.
However, by this time the dogs were no longer willing to trust the researcher and only complied 8 percent of the time. According to the study:
“These results suggest that not only [are] dogs … 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 researchers wanted to determine if the mistrust was only associated with the particular researcher or if the mistrust was associated with other people as well.
By repeating the first phase of the experiment in the final step, the untrustworthy researcher was replaced with a new individual, who pointed to a container with an appropriately hidden treat.
In that case, the dogs gave the person the benefit of the doubt and went to the container to which he pointed, showing they had not lost faith in all humanity — only in the person who misled them initially.
Dogs are typically said to have mental abilities similar to that of a 2 to 3-year-old child, but in this study it has been suggested that perhaps they possess a higher level of intellectual sophistication.
We know that dogs process emotional cues and meanings of words much like humans do. Dogs pay attention to body language, taking note of posture and eye contact which make them especially intuitive around sick people.
It’s been thought that the average dog comprehends about 165 different words, although some may learn additional ones if taught. Intelligence levels can vary by breed and other factors. According to canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D.:
“There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems) and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).”
Coren suggested most dogs have the mental abilities similar to a two-year-old child, though some dogs show especially impressive abilities like counting, understanding symbolic concepts, and operation of simple machines.
Coren believes these 7 breeds are the smartest though generalization by breed is a mistake-Exhibit A – Sam whose dimness has been well documented over the years:
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Shetland Sheepdogs
- Labrador Retriever
Now I ask you, is this the face of a rocket scientist? Yeah, I don’t think so either. Most definitely sweet, but smart . . . not so much.
So…how brilliant is your fur-kid?
Live, love, bark! <3