Dogs Can Be Manipulative, Sneaky To Get Treats From Humans


Dogs are the best friend one can have. Apart from being a loyal partner, the four-legged creature is also blessed with a unique ability to adapt according to human emotions.

Man's best friend also has the aptitude to recognize emotions and adopt them accordingly by combining information from different senses. Apart from being the loyal, playful, and adorable companion they are, dogs can also be devious when it comes to getting their favorite treat from their owners.

A new study, conducted by Marianne Heberlein of the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Experimental Studies at the University of Zürich, shows how dogs can manipulate humans to get their favorite snacks. The wily creatures resort to sneaky tactics to get treats such as sausages.

Heberlein was propelled to conduct research on this hypothesis due to the activities of her two pet pooches. The researcher noticed that one of her pet dogs tricked the other one by pretending to have seen something really exciting in the backyard, probably to take over the sleeping spot of the other.

The Study

For the purpose of the study, which is to ascertain whether dogs shared the same equation with humans and attempted to deceive them too, Heberlein and her team grouped 27 dogs with two different partners. One of the partners was termed as "cooperative" and the other was classified as "competitive."

The dogs were then made to guide their partner to one of two boxes on the command of "Show me the food." Both of the boxes had food inside them.

The cooperative partner would allow the dogs to eat whatever was inside the box, whereas the competitive one would simply show the treat to the dog and keep it inside their pocket.

The same experiment of giving and withholding the treat was repeated with three boxes. One of the three boxes had sausages, the second had the dogs' least favorite dry biscuits, whereas the third box was empty.

However, this time around, the owner asked the dog to choose any one of the three boxes. If the dog chose the one with their favorite food, the owner simply handed it over. If by chance the dog chose the box which was empty, then the owner would just show the bare box to the pooch.

What Did The Study Reveal?

As a result of the repeated conundrums, the dogs were finally able to guide their partners to the box containing the food.

However, the fact that surprised the researchers was the ability of the dogs to quickly figure out which partner was cooperative and which was not.

"They were really quickly able to differentiate between the two partners. There was no additional learning step needed," shared Heberlein.

Based on their optimal behavior, the dogs were more likely to lead the "cooperative partner" to the box which had their favorite sausages and the "competitive partner" to the one which was empty.

"It is as though the dog is thinking, 'Why should I tell that selfish person where the best treat [is] if it means that I will never get it?'" noted Stanley Coren in Psychology Today.

The results of the study affirm the theory that dogs can manipulate their owners into getting treats and are able to ascertain human reactions deftly. The pets engage in sneaky ploys to get their favorite food, as evidenced by the behavior demonstrated in the study.

The study has been published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Photo: Ralph Arvesen | Flickr 

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