Sure, there have been times you thought your pup was a furry little liar. The hole in your favorite blouse that somehow got there on its own. The mysterious stain by the counter which your dog has absolutely no knowledge of. But can your dog really lie to you? I mean, look at this face!
Unfortunately, the lack of a language bridge between dogs and humans will leave a lot of questions about our relationship with dogs unanswered. That is, until they can learn to speak the pup up.
In the meantime, one study suggests that dogs read human behavior well enough to take advantage of us. They can anticipate our actions to the point that they can manipulate us, perhaps even deceive us. At least, that’s what they think.
The experiment consisted of forbidding a dog from eating food directly in front of them. The experiment was conducted with the lights on, and with the lights off.
The researchers discovered that pups in the dark were more likely to take the food, arguably because the dog doesn’t think it’s being observed.
In other words, if the pup doesn’t think they’ll get caught, they’ll take the food. They use the dark as their alibi.
Another more recent study claims “dogs that are most bonded to their owners turn out to be most likely to observe their owner in order to steal food.” This implies that a greater understanding by the dog of the human’s behavior results in much more strategic thinking on the dog’s part.
“Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things,” said one researcher. “But that’s us thinking, not them.” Only with rigorous testing can behavioralists be certain.
“These results suggest humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can’t be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others’ minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability.”
Here’s to hoping that dogs disprove that assumption. We won’t be happy until we know our pups understand every word we say!