As research continues, the more humans discover the intelligence of dogs. A study published in Animal Cognition found dogs are able to deceive humans to get what they want.
Swiss researchers examined 27 dogs of varying breeds between the ages of 1.5 to 14 for the study. Two women trained the dogs: one who was generous with giving food (“cooperative”), and another who wasn’t (“competitive”). The cooperative woman easily handed the dogs food, and the competitive woman showed the dogs the food, but then pocketed it. Tests later showed dogs preferred the cooperative lady.
The dogs were then trained to lead humans to food in boxes on the ground. One box contained sausages (the favorite treat), one had a dog biscuit, and one box had nothing. The dogs were tested twice each with the cooperative and competitive person. The cooperative woman gave the dog the food in the box (if there was a treat inside), and the competitive lady kept the food.
On test day, the researchers found that the dogs would lead the cooperative woman to the sausage to get their treat. They furthermore more often led the competitive woman to the empty boxes, knowing they wouldn’t get the sausage from her. This behavior also was stronger on the second day of testing.
Los Angeles based dog trainer Elisha Stynchula told Broadly:
“Although it is a small sample and only reflects a contrived scenario, my takeaway is not that dogs lie and deceive, but rather it confirms that dogs are very intelligent animals. Dogs are very motivated to do what benefits them the most. That’s one of the reasons they are so trainable.
“A dog still is a loyal, lovely companion. However, the study shows that dogs, like other animals, try to optimize [their] own profit. They seem to know what they want and also can manipulate humans to reach their goal.”
Elisha says that this study reinforces the idea that dog owners should “be careful and precise in rewarding your dog.” Otherwise, dogs can learn fake behavior in order to get what they want from you.