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Dogs avoid people who snub their owners
Dachshund and owner
The study suggests that dogs can read social situations and avoid those who act negatively towards their owners.
Social eavesdropping may not be an ability unique to primates

It's well known that dogs are highly intelligent beings that can respond to commands, sniff-out criminal evidence and even diagnose medical conditions. But now, new research has shown that they might even be able understand simple interactions between people.

In a recent experiment, Japanese researchers found that dogs tended to avoid people if they acted negatively towards their owners. This suggests that dogs are able to read social situations - an ability known as 'social eavesdropping'.

The experiment was designed to see if dogs can evaluate humans interacting with one another over an object.

The results revealed that dogs avoided taking food from a person who behaved negatively towards their owner, which in this case meant ignoring them.

In the experiment, the dog's owner tried to open a container to get a junk object that was inside, then requested help from an actor sitting next to him, while the dog watched the interaction.

In the helper condition, the actor held the container stable to help the owner open it.  In the non-helper condition, the actor turned away and refused to help. A neutral person sat on the other side of the owner throughout these interactions.

After the instruction, both the actor and the neutral person offered a piece of food to the dog. The study found that dogs chose food randomly in the helper and control conditions, but were biased against the actor in the non-helper conditions.

The scientists say that the dogs' avoidance of someone who behaved negatively towards the owner suggests that social eavesdropping may be shared with a non-primate species.

The study, Dogs avoid people who behave negatively to their owner: third-party affective evaluation, was published in Animal Behaviour.

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Veterinary Evidence Student Awards winners revealed

News Story 1
 The first winners of the RCVS Knowledge Veterinary Evidence Student Awards have been revealed.

Molly Vasanthakumar scooped first prize for her knowledge summary comparing the ecological impact of woven versus disposable drapes. She found that there is not enough evidence that disposable synthetics reduce the risk of surgical site.

Second prize went to Honoria Brown of the University of Cambridge, for her paper: ‘Can hoof wall temperature and digital pulse pressure be used as sensitive non-invasive diagnostic indicators of acute laminitis onset?’

Edinburgh’s Jacqueline Oi Ping Tong won third prize for critically appraising the evidence for whether a daily probiotic improved clinical outcomes in dogs with idiopathic diarrhoea. The papers have all achieved publication in RCVS Knowledge’s peer-reviewed journal, Veterinary Evidence.  

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Animal Welfare Foundation seeks new trustees

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) seeks three new trustees to help drive the charity’s mission to improve animal welfare through veterinary science, education and debate.

Veterinary and animal welfare professionals from across the UK may apply, particularly those with experience in equine and small animal practice and research management. Trustees must attend at least two meetings a year, as well as the annual AWF Discussion Forum in London.

For more information about the role, visit www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk. Applications close at midnight on 13 August 2019.