SALT LAKE CITY, May 23 (UPI) -- Why won't your dog trust you when you point to the tennis ball hiding in the long grass at the other end of the yard?
It could be because you've fooled your dog one too many times with a fake throw, or as new research suggests, it could be because you're angry.
In a recent study aimed at understanding the how dogs interpret the emotional cues of their human friends, researchers found dogs were less likely to trust someone who appeared angry.
"We know that dogs are sensitive to our emotional cues, but we wanted to know: do they use these emotional cues?" Ross Flom, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, said in a news release.
Flom and his colleagues had volunteers execute a pointing gesture in the direction of a hidden dog treat. Researchers observed how quickly dogs reacted to the combination of gesture with facial expression and vocal tone.
Gestures combined with positive expressions and vocalizations had no greater effect than neutral gestures had on the control group of dogs, but dogs reacting to a volunteer expressing negative emotions -- facial and vocal cues approximating anger -- took longer to react to the pointing gesture and explore the foreign territory in search of the treat.
The findings, published in the journal Animal Cognition, suggest dogs are less likely to trust the advice of their human companions if those human companions are upset or angry.