Research Says Your Dog Only Thinks About Himself

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Surely you’ve seen this before. You go to a friend’s house and all your friend’s dog wants to do is play with the toys he brings you. When you stop throwing the ball or toy to the dog, he finds someone else to play with and acts as if you didn’t exist. That’s a selfish dog.

Or in another scenario, you always give a certain dog a treat when you see her. On days you don’t have a treat, the dog ignores you completely. That’s a selfish dog.

Certainly there are reports where a dog sees a need to save a life and jumps in without any hesitation.

For example, there’s the case of the blind Labrador retriever named Norman that heard the cries of a drowning girl about a half mile away on the beach.

This dog was not selfish. He charged full speed with the voice leading the way, and swam out to her to save her. If you missed that video, here it is:

Study Specifics

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom found that there really may be something as a selfish dog. Testing 24 different dogs, they hid an owner’s notebook or stapler in one corner of a room and the dog’s toy in another corner.

When the dog’s owner acted as if he/she had lost the notebook or stapler, the dog didn’t spend more time trying to help the owner out and went for the toy instead. However, in a second study, when there were no toys in the room, the dog did look at the notebook for a half second longer than the stapler when the owner was speaking with her voice high-pitched.

The researchers concluded that the dogs were selfish.

But maybe this study just shows lack of understanding into a dog’s selfish or unselfish brain. Fetching a notebook isn’t an established neural pathway in most dogs’ brains whereas fetching a toy, slipper, newspaper, or leash is. And what dog fetches a stapler? (Answer: An Intern Hound!)

Come on researchers… set up the experiment properly before you start labeling all dogs selfish!

University scientists did the same thing in 2006 when they reported that owners that faked a heart attack didn’t gain the compassion of their dog. Again, perhaps the dogs were smarter and knew that the person was faking it – after all, a dog uses his scent to detect different chemical messages that would go along with a heart attack. And since the owner really didn’t have a heart attack, there were no chemical messages to detect.

Do selfish dogs exist? You decide for yourself the next time you lose a stapler.

[Source: PLoS ONE]