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October 26, 2017 Thursday 04:03:32 PM IST

How to be friends of dogs

Science Innovations

Kolkata: Whether you dole out tasty treats or not, the best way to make friends with a dog is to show some good old love, says a new study by Indian scientists. The Dog Lab at Department of Biological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata (IISER-Kolkata), tested a total of 103 adult stray dogs analysing their response to immediate social and long-term food and social rewards (patting on head).

"When it comes to strangers, dogs are likely to trust humans who show them affection, than those that give them food. So the best way to make friends with a dog is to show it some love, whether you give it food or not," behavioural biologist Anindita Bhadra of the Dog Lab told IANS.

The study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology earlier this month points out that free-ranging dogs check out unfamiliar humans in their own way before making physical contact with them and this ability could help them adapt in the urban environment. The team designed two experiments, one was a one-time test and the other was a long-term one, to study their response.

"In the one time test, the experimenter put a piece of food on one hand and held it out to a dog. Another piece of chicken was put on the ground very close to the hand. A dog was called out to, and its response recorded on video. We recorded whether a dog approached or not and whether the dog took the food from the hand or not. When the dog made a choice, it was either patted on the head, or given an extra piece of chicken. We repeated the experiment and noted the dog's response," Bhadra explained.


It was discovered that most dogs prefer to take food from the ground, and the rewards, either food or social, did not affect this tendency in this one-off test, the researcher said. In the long-term test stretching across 15 days, the team had actually expected the dogs that were being provided food rewards to become more friendly towards the humans.

"But the results were the opposite. The long-term test showed a strong effect of social contact. Our results revealed that these dogs tend to build trust based on affection, and not food," she added.The team included Debottam Bhattacharjee, Shubhra Sau and Jayjit Das.

"In an earlier study,we had shown that humans are a big source of mortality. People often poison dogs. In the context of survival, a person who feeds a dog might have some bad intentions. But someone who shows affection is less likely to harm the dog.So this might be adaptive. And could have been adaptive in the process of domestication," Bhadra added.


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