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Good boy! Dogs prove loyalty when strangers are mean to their owners, says study

A new study points out that dogs aren't just man's (and woman's) best friend: They can tell when someone is being mean to their owners.
/ Source: TODAY

We already knew that dogs were man's (and woman's) best friends. But it turns out their loyalty runs deeper than expected. A new study from Kyoto University in Japan has revealed that dogs can tell when someone is mean to their owners and will snub them right back.

A new study to be published in science journal Animal Behavior later this month even indicates that the dogs will ignore food offered to them by people who have declined to help their owners.

"We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest," Professor Kazuo Fujita, who led the study, told AFP.

The study looked at three groups of 18 dogs each, who were put into role-playing situations in which their owners needed help opening a box. Two strangers to the dog were introduced to the situation, some of whom helped when asked, some of whom refused and some of who remained neutral.

Dogs know when someone is mean to you
Woman with dog nature near lake; Shutterstock ID 277149446; PO: dog-owner-loyalty-stock-today-tease-150616; Client: TODAY DigitalIrina Bg / Shutterstock

After the box was opened, the dog was offered food by the two strangers and was more likely to accept the treat from neutral parties in all groups and ignore food from people who refused to help. There was no particular difference in the dog's behavior toward those who helped and those who remained neutral.

In theory, if dogs were simply in it for themselves they'd take food from anyone who offered it.

"This ability is one of [the] key factors in building a highly collaborative society, and this study shows that dogs share that ability with humans," said Fujita.

It also corresponds with the behavior of children aged around three, the paper noted.

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