We’ve all known for years that dogs are great. They’re smart, empathetic and make our day better no matter what mood we’re in. But do they like to share? Are they generous without expecting anything in return? If my dog Anna were any indication, the answer would be no; she will not share with Roscoe for anything. Luckily, according to a new study, Anna doesn’t seem to be the norm.
When a dog helps another dog without benefitting from it in any way, they are being prosocial. While scientists have seen prosocial behavior displayed in primates, it had not yet been observed in dogs. Researchers conducted an experiment to find out if dogs were capable of this type of behavior. To do so, the scientists put dogs in cages and were shown how to pull levers and what the levers would do. One lever would deliver an empty tray to the dog in the cage next to them, one would deliver a treat to the other dog and one would dispense a treat to themselves.
Lead researcher and animal behavior expert Friederike Range of the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna told Vetmeduni Vienna, “Dogs truly behave prosocially toward other dogs. That had never been experimentally demonstrated before. What we also found was that the degree of familiarity among the dogs further influenced this behavior.” Range added that “the dogs did not pull on the tray out of fear of the unfamiliar dogs. Given the same situation, the dogs gladly gave themselves a treat. We were also able to disprove the argument that the dogs pulled the string less frequently because they were distracted by the unfamiliar partner during the test. Only rarely did a donor dog interact with the unfamiliar dog.”
The study also showed that the dogs gave out more treats to the dogs they knew. The study was published in Scientific Reports; click here to read it in full.