A Dog’s Sense of Fair Play

Studies show that dogs have a sense of fairness:

WASHINGTON – No fair! What parent hasn’t heard that from a child who thinks another youngster got more of something? Well, it turns out dogs can react the same way. Ask them to do a trick and they’ll give it a try. For a reward, sausage say, they’ll happily keep at it. But if one dog gets no reward, and then sees another get sausage for doing the same trick, just try to get the first one to do it again. Indeed, he may even turn away and refuse to look at you.

Dogs, like people and monkeys, seem to have a sense of fairness.

“Animals react to inequity,” said Friederike Range of the University of Vienna, Austria, who led a team of researchers testing animals at the school’s Clever Dog Lab. “To avoid stress, we should try to avoid treating them differently.”

Similar responses have been seen in monkeys.

Range said she wasn’t surprised at the dogs reaction, since wolves are known to cooperate with one another and appear to be sensitive to each other. Modern dogs are descended from wolves.

This is little surprise to experienced dog owners. Dogs express a wide range of emotions including not only a sense of fairness but of compassion, joy, anger, concern, injury. It’s more than just anthropomorphization.

If only we could instill a sense of fairness in human beings!

3 comments… add one
  • We’re both social creatures. (I’d expect all social species, parrots, etc., to have a sense of fairness)

  • BTW, “cheating monkeys, citizen bees” is a pretty fair book on this.

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