Dogs 'deliberately deceive owners' to get what they want, new study reveals
Cats might have a reputation for being a bit sneaky or scheming - but, according to science, we really ought to be keeping an eye on dogs if we're worried about our pets running rings around us.
A new study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, has found pet dogs will deliberately deceive humans in order to get something they want.
Researchers at the University of Zurich studied 27 dogs, pairing each one with two human partners: a "co-operative" one who would allow the dogs to eat treats, and a "competitive" one who withheld the treats.
"During the test," the researchers explained, "the dog had the options to lead one of these partners to one of the three potential food locations: one contained a favoured food item, the other a non-preferred food item and the third remained empty.
"After having led one of the partners, the dog always had the possibility of leading its cooperative owner to one of the food locations. Therefore, a dog would have a direct benefit from misleading the competitive partner since it would then get another chance to receive the preferred food from the owner.
"On the first test day, the dogs led the cooperative partner to the preferred food box more often than expected by chance and more often than the competitive partner.
"On the second day, they even led the competitive partner less often to the preferred food than expected by chance and more often to the empty box than the cooperative partner.
"These results show that dogs distinguished between the cooperative and the competitive partner, and indicate the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception."
Researcher lead Marianne Heberlein told New Scientist the animals "showed an impressive flexibility in behaviour. They’re not just sticking to a strict rule, but thinking about what different options they have.”