I read this article today about how some human scientists did this big study on whether or not dogs could tell if something was fair. Here's what they did. They'd tell a dog to do something stupid like shake hands with the human and then if that dog did that, then the dog would get a treat. Eventually the scientist would pick on one dog and not give that dog a treat when he (or she) did the stupid trick. The scientists were all impressed that the non-treat-recipient dog would wander away and not participate in the experience.
There was a quote in the article that I thought was really stupid. (I put the emphasis on the most stupid part.)
One thing that did surprise the researchers was that—unlike primates—the dogs didn't seem to care whether the reward was sausage or bread.
Possibly, they suggested, the presence of a reward was so important it obscured any preference. Other possibilities, they said, are that daily training with their owners overrides a preference, or that the social condition of working next to a partner increased their motivation regardless of which reward they got.
And the dogs never rejected the food, something that primates had done when they thought the reward was unfair.
The dogs, the researchers said, "were not willing to pay a cost by rejecting unfair offers."
Clive Wynne, an associate professor in the psychology department of the University of Florida, isn't so sure the experiment measures the animals reaction to fairness.
"What it means is individuals are responding negatively to being treated less well," he said in a telephone interview.
Isn't this what "fair" means?
There was one part of the article that I like a lot. I am emphasizing my most favorite part here:
Those that refused at the start—and one border collie that insisted on trying to herd other dogs—were removed. That left 29 dogs to be tested in varying pairs.