‘Loyal’ and ‘trustworthy’ are both words that have been used to describe dogs for the longest time. However, a new study published in the journal, Animal Cognition, might make us think otherwise. According to the study published by Springer Link, our canine companions might be able to trick us in order to get what they want.
In the study, 27 dogs were grouped with two humans each, where one human would be deemed the ‘cooperative partner’ and the other, the ‘competitive partner’. The cooperative partner would consistently feed treats to the pooch while the competitive partner would show the dog the treat before putting the snack away.
Hence, one partner was established as cooperative and the other as competitive, and the pooch acknowledged this by only approaching the cooperative partner for food.
Show Me The Food
The dogs were then taught to lead its humans to food with the command “show me the food”. Initially, two boxes were used and they both contained food. Whenever the cooperative partner was led to food, he would feed the treat to the pooch.
The competitive partner on the other hand, would take the treat from the box and keep it, so the doggy wouldn’t be able to eat it.
In the next phase of the experiment, a juicy sausage was put in one box and a regular dog treat was put in the other. A third box was also added to the test, but this box was empty. The dogs were then shown that if any food was left behind in the boxes after the experiment, their owners would give these leftover treats to them.
It then became obvious to the pups–in order to get the most treats in the shortest amount of time, they’d have to lead their cooperative partner to the boxes with treats and disobey the command of “show me the food” when with their competitive partner, showing him to the empty box instead.
The researchers noted that this was the trend among all the dogs, where they led their cooperative partners to the treats more than their competitive partners, and the competitive partners were led to the empty box more than the cooperative partners when given the command.
In addition to this, the dogs were observed to lead their humans to the sausage more often than to the dog treats.
Since the devious doggies disobeyed the command of “show me the food” for their own benefit, it’s safe to say that if you aren’t in a cooperative position with your pooch, it’s possible that he’ll lie to you to get to the food!
* This article was updated on 9 July 2020. It first appeared in Pets Magazine, 26 April 2017.