It’s a known fact that dogs are highly intelligent animals. We see it in the speed at which they learn new tricks and their instant obedience when we give commands. However, a study has shown that our furkids have the added ability to judge a person’s character and determine if a person is good or bad.

The study that was posted in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews showed that dogs are less likely to accept treats from humans who demonstrate bad or antisocial behaviour, which suggests that they are able to identify positive personality traits in humans and even show a preference towards these people.

Time To Put It to The Test

Researchers conducted the experiment by having the dog watch its owner struggle to open a container. After attempting to open it with no success, the owner would then turn to two actors sitting on either side of him and ask each one for help.

The experiment was played out in three different scenarios: One with the first actor offering help to the dog’s struggling owner, the second with the same actor refusing to help the owner and the third with the actor responding neutrally to the owner’s plea for help. The second actor’s response to the dog owner was constantly neutral throughout the test.

The two actors would then offer the pooch a treat at the same time after each scenario was played out. The dog was less likely to accept the treat from the actor who refused to offer help than the actor who responded neutrally. In the scenario where both actors responded neutrally to the dog’s owner, the pup didn’t seem to show a preference towards either actor.

Needless to say, the animal chose to accept treats from the actor who readily offered help rather than the actor who responded neutrally.

Detect Negative Behaviour

It is possible to conclude that dogs are able to detect negative behaviour in complete strangers, where one of their criteria for liking a person is the way we treat others around us. Whether this ability is synonymous with other members of the animal kingdom, or even with other pets, is a question that’s up for debate.

So, if you want Fido to like you more, being kind to those around you could be a good way to start!


* This article was updated on 14 July 2020. It first appeared in Pets Magazine, 23 Feb 2017.