Dogs: lovely, obedient dogs. Trustworthy. Loyal. Faithful. Kind. Dependable. “A man’s best friend”, right?
In fact, it turns out, dogs are not the pure-hearted angels we thought they were. Because much like your mate who slyly needles at everybody to leave the pub because he’s hungry and has suddenly decided he wants a Subway, dogs are deceiving us in order to get food.
Study author Marianne Heberlein, a dog cognition specialist at the University of Zurich, told New Scientist that she started investigating the canine chicanery when she noticed her own dog “pretending to see something interesting” in her back garden in order to convince the other to give up their favourite spot on the sofa. Her subsequent findings have been published in scientific journal Animal Cognition.
To work out whether the dogs were lying, they were partnered with two different (human) participants, one who gave them snacks and one who kept the snacks for themselves – thus establishing a like or dislike relationship.
The dogs were then instructed to show the humans a treat, selected from three different boxes – two with food in and one without. And researchers found that dogs would ‘lie’ to the selfish human participants, leading them to the empty boxes when instructed to select a box with food in.
“These results show that dogs distinguished between the cooperative and the competitive partner, and indicate that they are able to use tactical deception,” the authors write.
In further bad news, other studies have found that your dog can also tell when you’re lying, and will make judgements on how reliable you are based on how many times you’ve tricked them, so you’re pretty much fucked either way.