According to common knowledge, dogs are our friends, and never want to see us starve. As it turns out, not so much.
Animal researchers have found just how selfish a dog is when it comes to food. The puppy dog eyes notwithstanding.
The findings suggest that dogs may not have helpful feelings towards humans when it comes to food.
As pointed out on ScienceAlert.com, new research into canine behaviour has found that a dog won’t necessarily help out its human with a delicious snack, even if that human has given them a snack first. A dog act, indeed.
Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, designed an experiment to determine if dogs would help a human obtain food.
37 pet dogs were trained to use a food dispenser that opens with the press of a button across two different experiments. For the first experiment, a dog was paired with two unfamiliar humans on two different days. On the first day, a human would sit in the button enclosure that now contained a functional and non-functional button. This human would press the functional button at regular intervals to distribute food to the dog.
On the second day, a different human would sit in front of a button that did not work – the functioning button would still be visible – and press it at regular intervals. No food was distributed. The positions were then reversed, with the food dispenser placed in the enclosure with the human, and the dispenser’s button with the dog.
The second experiment largely replicated the first, except there was only one button in the enclosure, and the unhelpful human simply never pressed it. The other difference allowed the dog to reciprocate the humans’ respective behaviours on the same day instead of on different days. The researchers found that the human’s having previously helped the dog obtain food had no bearing on whether or not the dog pressed the button.
Why did this happen? With few participant dogs willing to answer the post-experiment questionnaire, and it having been shown in similar studies in which dogs’ readiness to help other dogs is tested using food, the dogs showed clear reciprocity, the absence of reciprocity is being assumed by those running the experiment to be an issue of “methodological inadequacies”.
“Though it is also possible that dogs are not predisposed to engage in such cooperative interactions with humans naturally,” the researchers said.
You may have seen your dog, or just a dog guarding its food, ensuring that another dog doesn’t get it. This is called ‘canine possession aggression’, sometimes referred to as food aggression or resource guarding. Dogs may growl, snap, or bite to protect their nom-noms, and also display similar behaviour around toys, beds, or other objects. This is their way of preventing it from being taken away by another dog or person, and is the dog’s way of telling you – or another dog – to back off.
And here we were thinking that cats had a bit of an attitude problem.