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Dogs Give Their Friends Food: How Canines are Social

First Posted: Dec 16, 2015 02:56 PM EST

Humans aren't the only ones that show cooperative behavior. It turns out that dogs may just be the same way. Scientists have found that dogs will share food with those that they consider to be a friend.

Prosociality has already been closely related in animals that are closely related to humans, such as in primates. Scientists have also studied this phenomenon in rats and jackdaws. While some experimentation had been done with dogs before, researchers will unsure whether dogs were demonstrating prosocial behavior toward humans, or merely exhibiting obedience.

"Dogs and their nearest relatives, the wolves, exhibit social and cooperative behavior, so there are grounds to assume that these animals also behave prosocially toward conspecifics," said Friederike Range, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Additionally, over thousands of years of domestication, dogs were selected for special social skills."

In this latest study, the researchers studied the prosocial behavior of 16 dogs by using a bar-pulling task. The dogs had to pull trays and decide whether a second dog would receive a treat or not.

The researchers found that whether the dogs knew the recipient or not made a difference. The dogs pulled the giving tray more often for familiar dogs than for unfamiliar dogs.

"Dogs truly behave prosocially toward other dogs," said Range. "That had never been experimentally demonstrated before. What we also found was that the degree of familiarity among the dogs further influenced this behavior. Prosocial behavior was exhibited less frequently toward unfamiliar dogs than toward familiar ones."

The findings reveal that dogs so, in fact, display prosocial behavior. It sees as if they determine whether or not another dog is a "friend" before helping them out.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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