Pet parents usually want to believe the best about their dogs. Their little angels are nothing but balls of cute innocent fluff- except when they’re not. If you’ve ever watched your dog step on the cat to get to a toy first or pretend to have a sore paw to get carried back from an extra long walk you know things aren’t always what they seem with pets. But do our dogs actively manipulate us?
A new study shows that dogs not only manipulate humans to get what they want, they’re quite good at it, too. The study published in Animal Cognition was conducted by Marianne Heberlein, a pet parent herself. She noticed that one her dogs would only pretend to pee before bedtime- just to get a treat along with the other dogs. This prompted her to investigate this type of behavior further. Did dogs really lie to humans just to get what they want?
Heberlein refereed to this as “tactical deception”.
They also use tactical deception to avoid things they don’t want to do. Check out this video of a pup pretending to have a hurt paw:
Tell Me Lies, Sweet Little Lies
What she proved probably won’t shock most pet parents. Dogs consistently, and quickly, learned to manipulate humans to get the tastiest treats available. In some cases, it only took the dog a matter of minutes to figure out what works and what doesn’t- even if it involved deception. Then, it was simply a matter of repeating what works as often as they could. Other primates in comparison often took hundreds of tries before figuring out what works.
“They really have the capacity from the cognitive aspect to use such a strategy to have a benefit in their lives,” Heberlein said. “It’s tactical deception, basically.”
“I do think it’s impressive that they got the co-operative/competition task quite quickly,”Daphna Buchsbaum, of the University of Toronto said. “It’s promising that they’re solving the problem and not just gradually learning more simple association.
So does this settle the debate that dogs really are smarter than cats? Maybe not.
“I think one of the biggest differences is that the dogs care and the cats don’t. The argument is: are dogs smarter than cats because they understand our communication and they do what we tell them to, or are cats smarter because they don’t do what we tell them to and we feed them anyway?”
My dogs have given me an entirely new spiritual perspective on life. I now have a genuine understanding of unconditional love and provision.