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  • Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.
    Slobodchikoff is President and CEO of Animal Communications, Ltd., specializing in pet behavior problems and in educating people about the behavior of animals.

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March 01, 2011


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Jay from The Depp Effect

Dogs definitely don't do well around unpredictable people. There are some who manage to adapt and live peaceably with such people, but then there are the poor souls who snap, both figuratively and literally, and whose punishment is often death - ironically, because the unpredictable people who have made the dog snappy then label him as unpredictable and therefore dangerous. *Sigh*


This is pretty interesting. I do think dogs can definitely form a "profile" about you. They are keen observers and they can come to learn what makes you react a certain way. All part of the way they try to fit in with a social group, be it humans or dogs or both or other creatures.

I think they are able to know which is more likely to occur. For example, someone who gives a ton of treats, but once in a while uses physical corrections, the dog won't be fearful of this person necessarily, since there's a real chance of getting rewarded while only certain things bring out the figurative beat stick.

With the treat take-backs, perhaps the dog is uncertain about the person's reaction if he goes for the treat. It wouldn't surprise me that the dog would go for the non-take-back treat, since getting it is a "safe" option. Plus, it could be that the dog is waiting to hear what to do to earn the treat. Almost an exercise in "leave it".

rick smith

1. re: "Dogs are supposed to be friendly toward everyone, and are supposed to lack the thinking skills that would allow them to form a judgment about reputations."
>>do not agree - i do not feel dogs are supposed to be friendly toward everyone - that type of statement is just something we humans wish for :-) whatever thinking skills they possess are only canine capabilities so lets not get too advanced here :-)
2. the experiment as i read it did not link a "treat giver's" reputation to any canine cognitive ability....the situations were visible exchanges observed by canines....even more apparent since some of the treat givers were inanimate boxes with a hand extended thru them.
3. it has always been assumed that dogs have some ability to "remember" things that have happened in their past that may illicit negative reactions in their present, and often the case of abused dogs is brought up....rarely do positive reactions in the past that elicit friendly responses ever get mentioned....why i don't know, but i have yet to see a study that proves in any way how much a dog can "remember" traumatic events that elicit LONG term negative responses throughout their life.

Nevertheless these issues interest me a LOT since i work with many rescue dogs and i'm glad studies are being constructed to try and get a better grasp of canine cognitive abilities in these situations.

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