Your dog knows when you’re being a jerk, so you better be nice

Naughty or nice, your dog has a way of knowing whether you’re being a jerk or not. That’s right, the ever-forgiving, sweet-as-can-be dogs in our lives know when we suck and when we don’t. According to a new study published in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviewsdogs use this information to decide how to interact with humans. So, in a sense, our dogs are sizing us up.

The study was conducted by acting out scenes between dog owners and researchers where one individual would play the so-called “jerk” and then try to offer the dog a treat. Researchers found that the dogs would refuse the treats or shun the person who was obviously being rude. Their sense of morality is impressive, making them even sweeter than we could original imagine.

This trait is shared with capuchin monkeys who were also studied by comparative psychologist James Anderson at Kyoto University. In the wild, monkeys can decide on which members of their group to mingle with or who is cooperating or not, and these judgements of morality are carried over when domesticated and studied as well. Essentially, monkeys and dogs have the same morality level of human babies.

I think that in humans there may be this basic sensitivity towards antisocial behavior in others. Then through growing up, inculturation and teaching, it develops into a full-blown sense of morality.

Primatologist Frans de Waal from Emory University thinks that the link between morality and reputation is strong. “Human morality is very much based on reputation building, because why would you try if no one cares?”

Just like a little human baby, dogs are able to learn how humans act and gauge their responses based off of the humans actions. This is honestly a game changer. Even though you think you can do whatever you want in front of your dog, in the privacy of your home, they are watching and totally judging.