Science shows that dogs are spoiled, selfish brats

Or at least they refuse to share their food with humans.

a promo shot from the 2005 version of Lassie
Lassie!
Photo: David Westing (Getty Images)

For centuries now, we’ve been swallowing the propaganda that dogs are Man’s Best Friend. A dog will do anything for you, we’re told. A dog will travel 500 miles to return to your side. A dog will run for help if your child falls in a well. If you have a dog with you, you’re never alone. But now, it seems, there are limits to canine love and loyalty.

Advertisement

Scientists speculate that humans and canines first became friends when humans began sharing their food with wolves, who eventually evolved into the cuddlier, more domesticated dog. And since then, humans have been feeding dogs regularly, sometimes as bribes to ensure continued good behavior, but also sharing scraps from their own plates. Recently, however, a team of scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, began to wonder if this worked in reverse: if, given the chance, dogs would share their food with hungry and helpful humans?

The researchers trained 37 domestic dogs to operate a dispenser that would release food if the dogs pressed it with their noses. (I’m sure this part wasn’t hard.) Then the dogs were moved to separate enclosures. In the first stage of the experiment, pairs of humans guarded the button. One human was helpful and dispensed food for the dogs. The other human did not. In phase two, the humans and dogs swapped roles: the dogs got to dispense food for the humans. But the dogs did not treat the helpful and unhelpful humans any differently.

The experiment was based on principles established in previous studies: that dogs would help other dogs who had helped them out previously and that dogs can distinguish between helpful and unhelpful humans. But this experiment failed to synthesize the two ideas, that dogs would reciprocate aid from humans. Either that, or the dogs didn’t understand what they were supposed to be doing. Which is also a possibility.

The scientists wrote up the study in the journal PLOS One anyway. So now all of us who grew up believing Lassie was sort of like a documentary may have to readjust our world view. Or maybe dogs will save from drowning. They just won’t feed us.

DISCUSSION

By
send_in_the_drones

That’s not the deal. The deal is dogs will protect us, even against bears, in exchange for food. They will wake us to danger in exchange for food. They will show loyalty and be happy and enthusiastic for us, and all they want is to be fed.

They will corner food and fight food and retrieve food. But we are obligated to do the one thing - that was the bargain struck so long ago.

Don’t alter the deal.