Friday, September 29, 2006

Dogs Prefer Winners over Losers

A study was conducted to analyze canine spectators and their reaction to the winner and the loser of the competitive match. In the study a human and a dog playfully competed with each other while two other spectator dogs watched. The human acted like a dog and used playful non-threatening movements while engaging in games with the dog, such as tug-of-war. The human got down on all fours and imitated playful movements of the dog such as bows, playful, non-threatening lunges, and feet shuffling. At the end of the game the spectator dogs excitedly ran towards the victor, wanting to interact with him.

A second study was conducted where the spectators were not able to view the game, but were able to hear it. Even though the spectators could not see who won, they still rushed over to the winner after the game. The dogs were able to tell either by listening to the game, or by having other unknown cues that identified who the winner was.

A third study was conducted where the human and dog competed without playful movements. In this case the spectator dogs did not approach the winner of the match. The other dogs most likely felt threatened by the winner of a real competition.

By watching the animals compete, the dogs seem to gain information about the animal's social status. Nicole Rooney, a researcher at the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol said, "I believe that within the context of a game dogs prefer winners because they are likely to be fun and effective partner with which to play." Dogs enjoy competitive play to test their competitive ability and learn from the other partner, which means that a dog will learn more from playing with a partner at either an equal or superior level than it would from playing with a partner of an inferior level. Dogs especially love to win the playful competitions. In related research it was found that winning improves dogs social skills and playing behavior.

Posted by ALT (4)


At 7:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I enjoyed this post very much. I could relate to the results of the study. My Golden Retriever has exhibited some of the behaviors that you list in your post. My dog seems to evaluate the social status of other dogs it does not know. I have also noticed that my dog prefers to play with the dog that seems to have the strongest social status. Perhaps the instinct to want to test social status goes back to their ancestors, where there was a hierarchy.

Posted by Brian Salem (4)

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this post to be somewhat interesting and informative. The intriguing part of the post I feel is that maybe this sort of behavior can be attributed to evolution. As a useful analogy, male peacocks possess a colorful array of tail feathers used to attract the female species to mate. The female usually picks the most flamboyant male because that shows that he has good genes for evading predators, otherwise, it may be difficult to survive predators with such an attention grabbing exhibit of feathers. Maybe the bias for winners is an evolutionary trend for dogs in that the victor in these playful battles becomes the dominant example in the species and this quality may become an attractive quality for prospective mates when it comes time to reproduce.

Posted by BRW (4)

At 10:50 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This article review was very interesting. I also have a dog she is very playful but knows when business is business. I will play with her kitty step-siblings roughly but when I am disipling the two and soon after call her name she will tuck her tail under and crouch away from me. But when it comes to her preference of playmates she prefers me and the two strong willed cats. She is always with the alpha instead of playing with the sisters grim (that would be the three other girl kitties). She has an afinity for the strong willed.

posted by KJCV (4)


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