Do Dogs Recognise Unreliable People?


Dogs are known to consistently follow human pointing gestures. In a study conducted by

The  study, was questioning whether dogs “automatically” follow a persons pointers or were they flexibly adjust their behavior depending upon the reliability of the pointer, demonstrated in an immediately preceding event. The researchers tested pet dogs in a version of the object choice task in which a piece of food was hidden in one of the two containers.

In Experiment 1, Phase 1, an experimenter pointed at the baited container; the second container was empty. In Phase 2, after showing the contents of both containers to the dogs, the experimenter pointed at the empty container. In Phase 3, the procedure was exactly as in Phase 1. The researchers compared the dogs’ responses to the experimenter’s pointing gestures in Phases 1 and 3. Most dogs followed pointing in Phase 1, but many fewer did so in Phase 3. In Experiment 2, dogs followed a new experimenter’s pointing in Phase 3 following replication of procedures of Phases 1 and 2 in Experiment 1. This ruled out the possibility that dogs simply lost motivation to participate in the task in later phases. These results suggest that not only dogs are highly skilled at understanding human pointing gestures, but also they make inferences about the reliability of a human who presents cues and consequently modify their behavior flexibly depending on the inference.

The results are not surprising to holistic behaviorists.

Roman Gottfried is an internationally known Holistic Dog Training and Behavior Expert, he is also an energy and crystal healing practitioner, he is an Usui-Reiki Master. He works with dog parents worldwide to help their dogs reach their full potential, by teaching them the holistic philosophy of dog training. He sees clients online and in-person.