Dogs do not like people who are mean to their owners.
They will refuse treats offered by people who have snubbed their owners, according to a Japanese study which will appear in the science journal Animal Behaviour to be published later this month.
Researchers led by Kazuo Fujita, a professor of comparative cognition at Kyoto University, tested three groups of 18 dogs using role playing in which their owners needed to open a box.
In all three groups, the owner was accompanied by two people that the dog did not know.
In the first group, the owner asked for help in opening a box from one of the other people who actively refused to help. The other person was neutral, not involved in refusing to help.
In the second group, the owner asked for and received help from one person. The other person was neutral.
In the third--control group-- both were neutral, neither person interacted with the dog’s owner.
After watching the box-opening scene, each dog was offered food by the participants.
Dogs that saw their owner being rebuffed were far more likely to choose food from the neutral observer, and to ignore the offer from the person who had refused to help.
Dogs whose owners were helped and dogs whose owners did not interact with either person showed no marked preference for accepting snacks from the strangers.
We discovered for the first time that dogs make social and emotional evaluations of people regardless of their direct interest.
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. Source
Like many/most other studies on dog behavior today this one doesn't come as a surprise to those of us who live with dogs. After a thirty thousand or so year partnership between humans and dogs, we can expect them to be socially sensitive and have highly advanced loyalty. I rather suspect my dogs are vindictive little bitches.
And it goes both ways.
It is not possible for me to like someone who is mean to my dog.
Or to someone else's dog.
Or to a homeless dog.