Female dogs judge human competence and are more likely to approach those who are able to accomplish tasks for them, according to a study from Kyoto University in Japan.
In the study “Female dogs evaluate levels of competence in humans,” Japanese researchers examined how both male and female dogs reacted to “competent” and “incompetent” people attempting to open containers of food.
“Dogs are highly sensitive to human behavior, and they evaluate us using both their direct experiences and from a third-party perspective,” the researchers wrote in the Elsevier journal Behavioural Processes. “Dogs pay attention to various aspects of our actions and make judgments about, for example, social vs. selfish acts.”
The 30 dogs in the experiment sat in front of both actors, who each had a clear container with a lid on it. The “competent” human was instructed to easily remove the lid while the “incompetent” person was asked to struggle and fail in removing the lid. This was also repeated with two more containers: one containing food and one that was empty.
The study found that the female dogs stared at the “competent” human significantly longer than the male dogs. The female dogs were also more likely to approach the human that did not make mistakes.
The authors suggest that the female dogs can recognize “a human’s competence and adjust their behavior based on their evaluation.” Researchers also noted that age, neuter status and the type of container used had no impact on the dog’s decision making.
“This result suggests that dogs can recognize different competence levels in humans, and that this ability influences their behavior according to the first situation,” the researchers wote. “Our data also indicate that more attention should be given to potential sex differences in dogs’ social evaluation abilities.”