Dogs may not return their owners’ good deeds

Domestic dogs show many adaptations to living closely with humans, but they do not seem to reciprocate food-giving, according to an Austrian study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE

Photo: chalabala 123RF

Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna trained 37 domestic dogs to operate a food dispenser by pressing a button, before separating the button and dispenser in separate enclosures. 

In the first stage, dogs were paired with two unfamiliar humans one at a time. One human partner was helpful—pressing their button to dispense food in the dog’s enclosure—and one was unhelpful.

The researchers also reversed the set-up, with a button in the dog’s enclosure that operated a food dispenser in the human’s enclosure. 

They found no significant differences in the dogs’ tendency to press the button for helpful or unhelpful human partners, and the human’s behaviour in the first stage did not affect the dog’s behaviour towards them in free interaction sessions after the trials.

Previous studies have demonstrated that dogs are capable of directing helpful behaviours towards other dogs that have helped them previously—a behaviour known as reciprocal altruism—and research suggests dogs are also able to distinguish between cooperative and uncooperative humans. 

However, the present study failed to find evidence that dogs can combine these capabilities to reciprocate help from humans. This finding may reflect a lack of ability or inclination among dogs to reciprocate, or the experimental design may not have detected it.

Source: Vet Practice magazine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s