New studies have shown that dogs, like monkeys, pick up on your behaviour with other people, and judge you on it – so if you’re horrible to everyone except your dog, they probably notice, and probably don’t like you very much.
A series of experiments were set up in order to find out if Capuchin monkeys would show a preference for those who help other humans. Firstly, the monkeys watched someone struggle to open a container with a toy inside, before asking another actor for help opening the container. The second person would either open it, or refuse to help. Afterwards, the monkeys were offered some food by both actors and they got to choose which food they accepted.
For the actor that helped open the container, the monkey did not have a preference for which actor it accepted food off, but for the actor who had refused, the monkey was far more likely to accept food from the struggler.
A different experiment further tested the monkeys understanding of fairness. In this experiment, two actors were both displayed holding 3 balls each. One actor would ask for some balls, and the other would hand over all three balls. Then, the second actor would ask for some balls back, to which the first actor would either refuse or oblige. Then, the monkeys were both offered food, and again, the monkeys refused to take the food from the ‘unfair’ actor.
This experiment was replicated with dogs and their owners, the results of which were surprisingly similar to that of the monkeys. Each dog’s owner pretended to struggle with a container, before handing it to one of the two actors, one of which would either help or refuse, and the other of which would remain passive. Then, both actors offered the dog some food, and if the actor had helped its owner, the dog showed no preference in who to take the food from.
However, if the actor had refused to help its owner, the dog was far more likely to choose the passive actor to accept the food off. Therefore, we now know that our dogs can understand fairness, and take a dislike towards people whose actions can be deemed as selfish or unfair. So if you aren’t nice to people, your dog will notice.