The Daily Telegraph

Female dogs prefer their humans to be competent

Study shows that bitches gravitate towards people who show they can cope with challengin­g tasks

- By Joe Pinkstone Science correspond­ent

FEMALE dogs judge people for being incompeten­t, but males will not hold it against you as they barely notice, a study has found. Both sexes can see when a person is struggling to accomplish a task, but the gender divide emerges when the dog needs something later on.

A male of the species will seek help from a human they know to have failed in the past, whereas females go straight to the person they saw flourish previously.

The reason for the split remains unknown, scientists say, and should be investigat­ed in future research.

Dogs have learnt, over 15,000 years of living alongside people, how to read and exploit human emotions and actions, making the relationsh­ip between man and beast unique.

Researcher­s from Japan have found that some dogs remember when a person was no use to them and seek help from more skilled individual­s.

Scientists recruited 30 dogs and owners and assessed them at Kyoto University by putting them in a room with two strangers, each with a clear plastic box in their hand.

One person was able to take the lid off with ease, while the other person struggled and failed to remove it. The “competent” and “incompeten­t” participan­ts did not interact with the dogs.

Afterwards, a person walked into the room with two more boxes: one containing a treat and the other empty.

Each person tried to open a box for 30 seconds while not looking at the dog or pulling any facial expression­s.

The dog was allowed to roam around and approach the experiment­ers 10 seconds into this struggle. Two cameras in the room recorded every canine movement and revealed that dog age, neuter status or the type of container used had no impact on the dog’s decision making.

When the containers had food inside, male dogs had no preference, with exactly half choosing to go up to the person they knew to be competent. However, female dogs preferred the competent person, going to them 83 per cent of the time.

The person the animal chose to help them was decided by calculatin­g where they looked the most.

“We found that female dogs looked significan­tly longer than males when a person who was competent at opening baited containers manipulate­d a container previously unknown to the dog,” the scientists explain in their study, published in the journal Behavioura­l Processes.

“The female dogs preferenti­ally approached the competent person. In other words, their looking direction predicted their subsequent choice.”

The findings reveal that dogs are born with an innate ability to understand human faces and gestures.

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