Is My Dog Judging Me? 3 Things Your Dog Is Watching You For and You Didn't Know
We live in an age of judgement, but could it be that this even extends to your dog? Man's (or indeed woman's) best friend is one of our loyalest companions, but don't take those adoring eyes for granted. Next time you feel like you can't be bothered to wash up your housemate's mug, or take the opportunity to polish off the rest of the milk, you may come to wonder: Is my dog judging me?
While every dog lover knows that their pooch is so much more than four legs, a cute face, and a fluffy tail, owners are often mocked by those who just don't get dogs (I know, who even are these people?!) for ascribing all sorts of human characteristics to their canine friends. My chocolate Labrador is "daft" and "kooky", while my dad's Lhasapoo is apparently "highly intelligent" and "crafty" — but a new report highlighted by the New Scientist reveals the true extent of a dog's emotional intelligence.
The report, carried out by comparative psychologist James Anderson and his colleagues at Kyoto University, suggested that dogs and other animals are capable of judging our behaviour and our treatment of others. So you've been warned: your dog is judging you. Read on to find out how.
1. Lending a Hand
Think twice before you rush past that poor parent struggling with a buggy on the bus. In a test performed first on dogs and their owners, Anderson and his team concluded that animals show preferential treatment to humans with a helpful nature. The researchers asked each owner to try but ultimately fail to open a container while their dog watched. One of the bystanders remained passive, while the other actively refused to help; when both people went to offer the dog a treat, the dog made a beeline for the first owner.
John Bradshaw, in his book The Animals Among Us charts the canine sensitivity to human behaviour back to their ancestry: "Dogs are descended from wolves, which are very social animals so right from the word go, they’ve had a basis for understanding the body language of the animals around them, whether the animals around them are other dogs or indeed whether they’re humans."
2. Sharing is Caring
It's a mantra we're all brought up with, but who knew animals were as attached to the notion of fairness as humans are? In a test with capuchin monkeys, the researchers gave two actors three balls; when one refused to give the balls to the other, the monkey showed a clear preference for the injured party. In 2011, a similar study also carried out at Kyoto University, proved that dogs showed preference to participants who shared their food with beggars over those who refused.
Frans de Waal of Emory University told the Metro that a lot of the way we behave comes down to whether or not we are being watched: "Human morality is very much based on reputation building, because why would you try to be good if no one cares? I think that in humans there may be this basic sensitivity towards antisocial behaviour in others. Then through growing up, inculturation and teaching, it develops into a full-blown sense of morality."
3. Kindness Above All Else
It pays to be kind. Our dogs know this as well as we do. Speaking to the New Scientist, Anderson stated that the animal response to humans displaying a lack of compassion or empathy is not so different to ours: “If somebody is behaving antisocially, they [animals] probably end up with some sort of emotional reaction to it.”
"Be the person your dog thinks you are" is a quote attributed to U.S. author J.W. Stephens that has now been appropriated for countless T-Shirts, mugs, and other dog-related (and admittedly quite naff) memorabilia, but the phrase now takes on a whole new meaning thanks to this study. Author and columnist India Knight, in her book The Goodness of Dogs, writes emphatically on how dogs inspire us to be better people, "Your dog thinks you are literally the best, most wonderful, kindest, loveliest person that's ever lived." So best be on our best behaviour; we have a lot to live up to.