Hey, Where's My Treat?

 |  Dec 9th 2008  |   2 Contributions


Friederike Range at the University of Vienna, Austria, led a team testing dogs at the school's Clever Dog Lab. They were trying to determine if dogs have a sense of fair play, if they react to inequity.

If you give one dog a treat, in front of the other, will it effect how the unrewarded dog behaves?

In the reward experiments reported in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Range and colleagues experimented with dogs that understood the command "paw," to place their paw in the hand of a researcher. It's the same game as teaching a dog to "shake hands."

Those that refused at the start - and one border collie that insisted on trying to herd other dogs - were removed. That left 29 dogs to be tested in varying pairs.

The dogs sat side-by-side with an experimenter in front of them. In front of the experimenter was a divided food bowl with pieces of sausage on one side and brown bread on the other.

The dogs were asked to shake hands and each could see what reward the other received.

When one dog got a reward and the other didn't, the unrewarded animal stopped playing.

If all dogs got a reward, no matter if it was different for each dog, then all was well. If I was to apply this science to our "kids" it doesn't really measure up. Logan, our Berner rescue, has only been with us six months and still has many issues. To get a treat all he needs to do is look cute, something he's quite good at. If the other dogs see him get a treat doing nothing they will still sit and give paw, it doesn't seem to phase them.

So, do your dogs follow the science presented or are they more like our dogs? Give me a bark, let me know the treat protocol in your house.

* The pic above is Cairn Terrier Chloe and pal, doing tricks for treats?

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