Do dogs lie? Although people often attribute dogs with far more cognitive ability than they are capable of (and far less for that matter), a new study suggests that dogs practice deception.
260 dogs were trained to find hidden food in one of two covered bowls. The dogs then learned to follow the suggestion of a person they had never met who indicated which bowl contained the food. The dogs appeared to trust the new person and, once this was established, the dogs watched as another person moved the food from the first to the second bowl. The communicators were either in the room and also witnessed the switch or were briefly absent. In both instances, the communicators then recommend the first bowl which was now empty.
Half of the dogs followed the communicator’s misleading advice if the communicator hadn’t witnessed the food switch. However roughly two-thirds of the dogs ignored the communicator who had witnessed the food switch but still recommended the empty bowl.
This is more complicated, cognitively, than it appears as it suggests that dogs have at least partial theory of mind – the ability to understand and take into account another individual’s mental state.
This is video of my late dog being distracted – did Lily know what she was doing?