KYOTO, Japan — Have you ever caught a dog giving you a strange look after you make a mistake? It turns out they’re quietly judging you and your apparent incompetence, at least if they’re female, a new study reveals.
Researchers in Japan have found that female dogs “judge” people after watching them make an error or act in an incompetent manner. While the team examined how both male and female dogs reacted to watching people either act competently or incompetently, results show females stare longer and approach humans who appear competent while opening a container of food.
“Dogs are highly sensitive to human behavior, and they evaluate us using both their direct experiences and from a third-party perspective,” researchers write in the journal Behavioural Processes. “Dogs pay attention to various aspects of our actions and make judgments about, for example, social vs. selfish acts.”
To test how dogs react to people making mistakes, 30 canines sat in front of two actors. Each person had a container of food with a lid on it. The “competent” human easily opened the container. Meanwhile, the “incompetent” human struggled to get the lid off.
After recording this experiment, the team found that female dogs stared at the competent human significantly longer than their male counterparts. They were also more likely to approach the clever human who could get the lid off. Study authors believe this shows female dogs can recognize when a person is competent, and that this judgement influences their behavior.
Simply put, female dogs see a smart human and want to be around them, while avoiding their “dimmer” friends who can’t even open a jar.
“This result suggests that dogs can recognize different competence levels in humans, and that this ability influences their behavior according to the first situation. Our data also indicate that more attention should be given to potential sex differences in dogs’ social evaluation abilities,” the researchers conclude.