Your Dog Can Lie to You to Get What It Wants, a Study Reveals

4 years ago

We’ve recognized the intelligence of dogs and we rely on them to guard our house, be guides to the blind, and help with police investigations. But dogs deserve even more credit than that. Not only has there been a study to show that they can learn to understand what we say, another study has found that dogs are also able to strategize to get things to go their way.

Bright Side looked further into this finding to be able to understand our furry friends better.

Dogs are smarter than we think.

Published in Animal Cognition, a study was done on 27 dogs of different breeds between the ages 1.5 and 14 years old to see if they would try and deceive people they didn’t like. Turns out dogs are able to lie to us with their behavior, if it means they can get what they want.

Our furry friends know how to deceive us.

First, the researchers tested to see which treats each dog liked best, sausage or a dog biscuit. Next, the dogs would be shown 3 boxes: one containing their favorite treat, another one with their second favorite treat, and an empty box. 2 ladies would give them the command, “Show me the food” and they were taught to show the ladies to the box that contains the food they like.

Now here’s the trick: One lady is “cooperative” and “generous,” which means that if they bring her to the box containing their preferred food, the dogs will get their preferred treat. The other lady is “uncooperative” and “selfish,” so the dogs will not get the treat they want if they bring her to the box with food, because she will take and keep the treat in her pocket. Then the dogs would go back to their owners who would give them the same command and the owners would reward them with what’s in the box. If the box was already empty because the food was previously taken by the “selfish” woman, they would get nothing.

So you see, there was a chance for them to use tactics to mislead the ladies here. The results showed that the dogs would lead the “generous” woman to their preferred food almost 80% of the time. Whereas the “selfish” woman was led to their favorite food only less than 20% of the time. This led the researchers to the conclusion that dogs are able to lie to us if it benefits them.

There’s no doubt that dogs are loyal, but they’re not selfless.

Of course this finding in no way means that we can no longer trust dogs. They are still sweet, loyal, and trustworthy. But it is good for us to know that they are not entirely selfless beings, because now we can be more aware that they could fake some behaviors just to get something in return. This way we can be more careful when rewarding our canine companions.

Have you been tricked by your dogs before? Show us a picture of your mischievous furry pets and tag anyone you know who has a dog!

Preview photo credit palmerense / reddit


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My beloved dog, who sadly died in an accident at 4 years old, was the smartest dog I've ever known. I've fostered close to 40 dogs so I had a lot to compare her to! One weekend 3 of and Sakina (the too clever and normally very well behaved GSD/Deerhound mix) went camping in the beautiful English countryside nearby and we had of course prepared for an evening of sitting around the big campfire, eating delicious food and relaxing. The campsite was privately owned by family members so we were the only ones there. After a pleasant night we cooked a full English breakfast, each us except Sakina getting 2 of the gourmet sausages. I expect she was quite miffed at this as she went speeding off into the pub garden next door where she would often have to be retrieved after bouncing on their large outdoor trampoline. One of went to catch her whilst the of us stayed to finish cooking. The sausages were already in our mess tins ready to eat. Once we were all back (Sakina sulking in the tent - she loved that trampoline!) we started to eat and realised that we each had only 1 sausage each. She'd been clever enough to take one sausage from each at some point, possibly whilst using her rapid exit from the crime scene to try and hide her actions. Still was the best dog and my forever soulmate, I miss her deeply still.


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