Dogs Can Distinguish Between Intentional and Unintentional Human Behavior: Study

A stock image of a dog.
Getty Stock Images

Dogs have evolved over 30,000 years to understand humans, a new report cited.

Dogs are able to tell the difference between something that is done intentionally or unintentionally, researchers say. One more reason why our dogs are man’s best friend.

“The dogs in our study clearly behaved differently depending on whether the actions of a human experimenter were intentional or unintentional,” author of the study, Dr. Britta Schunemann of Gottingen University.

Schunemann, along with her colleagues tested how the dogs reacted when the food rewards were withheld, according to Scientific Reports.

A team of researchers conducted an experiment using the ‘unable vs. unwilling paradigm.” A total of 51 dogs were in the study and tested under three conditions: unwilling condition; unable clumsy condition and unable-blocked condition. Each animal was separated by its human partner with a transparent barrier between them. and then was fed a piece of dog food through a gap, the report cited.

In the ‘unwilling’ condition, the human partner withdrew the reward through the gap in the barrier and placed it in front of herself. In the ‘unable-clumsy’ condition, the human partner brought the reward to the gap and ‘tried’ to pass it through — but then ‘accidentally’ dropped it.

In the “unable-blocked” condition, the human partner tried to give the dog a reward again, but she was unable to because the gap was blocked, the report said.

In all conditions, the reward remained on the tester’s side of the barrier.

The study revealed that dogs were able to tell the difference between something done on purpose, or by accident.

“If dogs are indeed able to ascribe intention-in-action to humans we would expect them to show different reactions in the unwilling condition compared to the two unable conditions. As it turns out, this is exactly what we observed,” Dr. Juliane Brauer, of Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and co-author of the study said, according to the Good News Network (GNN).

Previous studies have released that dogs can the difference between happy and angry faces. And, are able to process language in a very similar way humans do, by the volume, and the emotional tone and intonation, of the messages, the publication reported.

Scientists say it may be gradual, but dogs have evolved over 30,000 years to understand humans, the news outlet reported.

Related Stories