Science shows that dogs are spoiled, selfish brats
a promotional recording from the 2005 version of Lassie
For centuries we have swallowed the propaganda that dogs are man's best friend. A dog will do anything for you, we are told. A dog will travel 500 miles to get back to your side. If your child falls into a well, a dog will run for help. If you have a dog with you, you are never alone. But now, it seems, there is a limit to the love and loyalty of dogs.
Scientists speculate that humans and dogs first became friends when humans started sharing their food with wolves, who eventually evolved into cuddly, domesticated dogs. And since then, people have been feeding dogs regularly, sometimes as a bribe to ensure continued good behavior, but also to share leftovers from their own plates. Recently, however, a team of scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna wondered whether this also works the other way round: would dogs share their food with hungry and helpful people?
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The researchers trained 37 domestic dogs to operate a dispenser that released food when the dogs pressed their noses on it. (I'm sure this part wasn't difficult.) Then the dogs were put in separate enclosures. In the first phase of the experiment, pairs of people guarded the button. A person was helpful and distributed food for the dogs. The other person didn't. In phase two, humans and dogs swapped roles: the dogs had to give food for humans. But the dogs did not treat helpful and unhelpful people any differently.
The experiment was based on principles established in previous studies: that dogs would help other dogs who had previously helped them, and that dogs can distinguish between helpful and unhelpful people. But this experiment failed to synthesize the two ideas that dogs would reciprocate help from humans. Either that or the dogs didn't understand what to do. Which is also a possibility.
The scientists wrote the study in the journal PLOS One anyway. So now we, all of us who grew up believing that Lassie was some kind of documentary, may have to readjust our view of the world. Or maybe dogs save from drowning. They just won't feed us.
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