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Do Dogs Judge Us? A New Study Has the Answer | Pupford

December 18th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Dogs have been regarded as "man's best friend" for centuries, and their loyalty and companionship have been well-documented.

However, there is an interesting topic about whether dogs have the ability to judge humans and it could shed light on the complex nature of the human-dog relationship.

Attempting to best understand how dogs perceive things could do wonders in strengthening our relationships with our furry companions. Let’s first examine some key things about how our dogs think, before we get into the central question: do dogs judge us?

Hint: the answer is yes, dogs do judge us, but it’s not that simple.

Let’s take a closer look…


a dog that is judging their owner

While dogs do not operate with the same level of complex reasoning and problem-solving as humans, they do have a range of cognitive abilities that allow them to navigate their environment and interact with other animals, including humans.

Related Product: Cognitive Supplement for Dogs & Puppies

They are amazingly intelligent beings but need guidance and training to adapt to the constructs of the human world.

Dogs have a remarkable ability to read and respond to human emotions.

They are highly attuned to our facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, and are able to understand a wide range of emotional cues, including happiness, fear, anger, and sadness.

In fact, research has shown that dogs may even be able to detect changes in our scent that are associated with different emotional states.

This ability to perceive and respond to human emotions is likely related to dogs' long history of domestication and coevolution with humans.

As dogs became more integrated into human societies, they may have developed a heightened sensitivity to human emotions as a way to better understand and respond to our needs and desires. Each dog is unique, but they are all capable of growth and understanding.

Regardless of whether dogs are actively judging us based on our emotions or simply responding to our emotional cues, it is clear that our emotions play an important role in the human-dog relationship.

Gaining an understanding of how dogs perceive and respond to our emotions can enhance our comprehension of the unique and intricate bond we share with them.


Body language and voice tone are important aspects of dog-human communication. Dogs are highly sensitive to our body language and can often interpret our nonverbal cues more accurately than our verbal ones.

For example, a dog may be able to tell if we are happy or angry based on our facial expressions and posture, even if we are speaking in a calm tone of voice.

They can also pick up on subtle changes in our voice tone and use this information to understand our emotional state. For example, they may be able to detect changes in our tone that indicate fear or anxiety and respond accordingly.

By paying attention to our body language and voice tone, we can better communicate with our dog buddies and strengthen our connection with them. Not only can they learn from us by picking up cues, but humans will also be able to respond appropriately to their needs.

Learn more about dog body language, including spotting the difference between stress and calming signals in our Dog Body Language Course in Pupford Academy+. 


dogs are capable of feeling many emotions including judgement

The impact of socialization plays a critical role in shaping dogs' behavior toward humans. Dogs that are exposed to a variety of people, animals, and environments during their critical socialization period (16 weeks to 24 weeks of your puppy's life) are more likely to be well-adjusted and friendly towards humans later in life.

We can infer that this will also make them more likely to have the capacity to make a determination about a human’s tendencies and make certain judgments based on them.

On the other hand, dogs that are not properly socialized may be fearful or aggressive towards humans, particularly strangers. This is why it's so important to socialize puppies from a young age and to expose them to a variety of experiences and people.

Related Reading: How to Socialize a Puppy – Safely and Effectively

By providing our dogs with positive socialization experiences and reward-based training, we can help to ensure that they are well-adjusted and friendly towards humans throughout their lives.

If your dog is past that prime socialization period, you can still work on safely and effectively socializing them. Check out our adult and rescue socialization video in Pupford Academy+. 


According to a study conducted by researchers at Kyoto University in Japan, dogs may be capable of judging human competence. The study involved testing 74 dogs from different breeds, where they were shown two groups of humans who held treats.

The first group of humans quickly opened an empty container and showed it to the dogs, while the second group struggled to open the same container and eventually gave up. The dogs were then given the choice of which human to get the treat from and consistently chose the human who demonstrated competence in opening the container.

dogs are capable of judging humans study shows


The concept of judgment refers to the process of forming an opinion or making an evaluation about something or someone. While dogs are undoubtedly capable of perceiving and responding to human behavior and emotions, the question of whether or not they actively judge us is more complex.

Taking a closer look at the question enables us to explore a more meaningful hypothetical scenario.

Suppose we accept the premise that dogs do evaluate us - then, a relevant question arises: How can we become exemplary pup parents in their eyes? One way to live up to our pup’s big expectations is to practice empathetic parenting techniques.


We want to emphasize that we can never truly get inside the heads of our puppies, it is important to always work towards healthy communication. This can help improve their well-being and quality of life because you will be more aware of their specific needs and preferences.

If our dogs are in fact judging us, why not show them that you are capable of empathy and that you strive to understand and be sensitive to their needs, feelings, and emotions? Empathetic dog guardians are better equipped to communicate with their pets and provide them with a nurturing and supportive environment.

This includes providing them with proper nutrition, exercise, and regular veterinary care, as well as training and socialization.


a dog judging a human | Pupford

The answer is yes, dogs can judge us! Dogs are capable of judging human competence, according to a study conducted by researchers at Kyoto University.

By understanding how dogs perceive and respond to us, we can strengthen our bond with them and provide them with a nurturing and supportive environment.

We hope that this article has provided you with helpful information and resources to better understand the psychology of dogs. If you have any questions about how you can be a more empathetic doggy parent, explore our Pupford Academy resources–or leave a comment below!


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