Previous studies involving babies have shown that by the age of one, humans are already starting to judge people by how they interact. Such discoveries have led researchers to suggest that children have a kind of innate morality that kicks in before being taught how to behave by respected authorities in our lives. Intrigued by these results, researchers at Kyoto University wondered whether this same theory could apply to dogs.
To test the theory, researchers tested whether dogs preferred people who helped their owners above those who refused. Using actors, each owner tried to open a container. The owner then presented it to an actor who either helped or refused. The other actor stood by passively in both scenarios. Both actors then offered the dogs a reward, allowing the pooch to choose between them. Results found that the dogs had no preference in accepting a reward when the first actor had helped their owner, but were much more likely to choose the passive actor if the first one refused to help.
The result led researchers to argue that dogs do have a sense of morality, similar to that of human babies. In other words, when Spot witnesses antisocial behavior, he will have an emotional reaction to it. Though it wasn’t an intended part of the study, the results further reinforce the notion that dogs are man’s best friend, as they’re reluctant to trust somebody who doesn’t show their owner respect.