Dogs will share food with other dogs in an absolutely selfless manner, showing prosocial behavior only seen in humans and primates before.
Centuries of domestication may have thought man’s best friend to be truly altruistic to other dogs as well. However, what exactly underpins dog’s prosocial behavior remains a mystery. The findings of the study conducted by scientists with the University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna proved that dogs will share food with other dogs in an absolutely selfless manner. With the added note that our furry friends are even more generous when it comes to familiar canine friends around them.
Their park stroll friends or dogs in the same household will be more inclined to give food to each other than dogs that haven’t met before. To understand if dogs are capable of prosocial behavior, the ethologists team paired 16 of them in donor-receiver pairs. The donor dogs were trained to pull a lever that would deliver a food tray to its friend.
Following the brief training period, food came into play. Two levers would now deliver either food tray or an empty tray to the receiver dogs. The donor dogs never received a snack as a reward. Faced with the situation, the donor dogs almost always chose to activate the lever that would deliver the receiver dogs a food tray. Selflessly and not begging for food for themselves they were willing to help a dog in need get its chow portion.
If the receiver dog happened to be a friend, even the more so. According to Friederike Range, animal behavior expert with the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna:
“Dogs truly behave prosocially toward other dogs. That had never been experimentally demonstrated before. What we also found was that the degree of familiarity among the dogs further influenced this behavior”.
At the end, the dogs were tested. Did they do it all for fun or really showed prosocial behavior by sharing food selflessly? It seems the latter holds true. One of the levers could deliver them a treat. Nonetheless, even if aware of the option, the donor dogs continued to gift their canine friends, while sometimes offering themselves a treat too. The research is published in the Scientific Reports journal.
Photo Credits: Flickr