BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study shows that dogs prefer attention over treats, thus busting the myth according to which the beloved pets are only interested in human contact because of the food they receive. Apparently, man’s best friend got its nickname for a reason.
According to a new study that was published in the Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience Magazine, dogs prefer attention over treats, proving once again that their loyalties are based on more than just tasty treats.
Lead author of the paper, Gregory Berns, stated that the interaction between humans and dogs is a fascinating study subject as the latter are hyper-social and make excellent models for the analysis of cross-species bonding.
Due to the fact that in most situations owners prefer to train their dog using a mixture of treats and social rewards, it was difficult for scientists to differentiate between the two and single out the one that makes the pet happier.
“One theory about dogs is that they are primarily Pavlovian machines: they just want food, and their owners are simply the means to get it. Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself,” Berns wrote.
In order to see which one of the theories is correct, the scientists trained a sample of dogs to associate three distinct toys with various outcomes: a blue knight brought the praise of the owner, a pink truck was associated with food, and a hairbrush brought nothing.
After the researchers had made sure that the objects are associated with the proper reward, they placed the pets in an MRI machine and studied their responses to each one over the course of 32 trials per each toy.
The next experiment placed the puppies in a maze room that they previously navigated during their training and were faced with two paths: one lead to the owner and one to a food bowl. If the dog chose the former, it would receive praises from the owner.
From the thirteen dogs that participated in the study, only two chose the chow, the rest of them ran happily towards their owners.
Moreover, the experiment underlined the fact that, like humans, dogs have different personalities.
What do you think about the fact that dogs prefer attention over treats? What does your pet prefer?
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