Study: Dogs will snub people who are mean to their owners - even refusing food from them

JAPAN -- Dogs don't like people who are mean to their owners -- and they'll even refuse food from people who have snubbed their master. This, according to Japanese researchers at Kyoto University.

Researchers at the university, led by professor Kazuo Fujita tested three groups of 18 dogs. In this experiment, their owners needed to open a box.

In all three groups, the owner was accompanied by two people whom the dog did not know.

In the first group, the owner sought assistance from one of the other people, who actively refused to help.

In the second group, the owner asked for, and received, help from one person. In both groups, the third person was neutral and not involved in either helping or refusing to help.

Neither person interacted with the dog's owner in the third group.

The researchers found the dogs were more likely to ignore the stranger who denied helping, and instead take food from the neutral person.

The dogs didn’t distinguish between the strangers in the other scenarios.

“We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest,” lead researcher Kazuo Fujita told the press.

If the dogs were acting solely out of self-interest, there would be no differences among the groups, and a roughly equal number of animals would have accepted food from each person.

Dogs' ability to not always act out of immediate self-interest is evidence of their cooperative social nature, Fujita said.

"This ability is one of key factors in building a highly collaborative society, and this study shows that dogs share that ability with humans," he said.