Dogs: Aren’t They Incredible!

The love and admiration for this beautiful animal goes on and on!

It seems as though it is almost on a weekly basis that new and incredible facts about our dear, dear dogs come to the surface.

So what prompted this from me today!

Only a wonderful article that was originally published in New Scientist but then was carried by The Smithsonian. I am hoping that by fully linking this post to both the New Scientist article and the essay in The Smithsonian I am at liberty to republish it for all you good people.


Dogs Use Deception to Get Treats, Study Shows

When a human partner withheld tasty snacks, the dogs got sneaky

Would these eyes deceive you? New study says yes. (johan63/iStock)

By Brigit Katz
March 10, 2017
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that dogs, in addition to looking adorable in sweaters, possess fairly sophisticated cognitive abilities. They recognize emotion, for example, and respond negatively to antisocial behavior between humans. Man’s best friend can also get pretty tricksy when it comes to scoring snacks. As Brian Owens reports for New Scientist, a recent study found that dogs are capable of using deceptive tactics to get their favorite treats.

The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, was led by Marianne Heberlein of the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Experimental Studies at the University of Zürich. Heberlein told Owens that the idea for the study was born when she observed her pet pooches engaging in deceptive behavior; one sometimes pretends to see something interesting outside, prompting the other to give up his sleeping spot.

To find out if dogs engage in similar shenanigans with humans, Heberlein and a team of researchers paired 27 dogs with two different partners, Stanley Coren explains in Psychology Today. One of these partners would repeatedly go to the bowl of a given dog, fish out a treat, and give it to the pup. The other would show the treat to the dog, and then put it in her pocket. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dogs began to show a preference for the more generous partners, and would approach them spontaneously.

Once one partner had been established as co-operative, the other as competitive, the dogs were taught to lead their partners to one of two boxes, both containing food, with the command “Show me the food.” And the same pattern was repeated: when the dogs led the co-operative partner to a treat, they got to eat it. The competitive partner withheld the treat.

Researchers then showed the dogs three covered boxes. One contained a sausage, the second contained a less-yummy dry biscuit, and the third was empty. Once again, the process of treat giving and withholding was repeated, but this time with a twist: when the dog was reunited with its owner, the owner asked it to choose one of the boxes. If there was a treat inside the box, the dog was allowed to eat it. But “if the dog chose the box which had been opened before,” Coren explains, “the owner just showed the empty box to the dog.”

Over the course of a two-day testing period, the dogs were repeatedly presented with this conundrum. They had been trained to lead both partners to boxes containing food, but they knew that the competitive partner would not let them eat the snacks. They also knew that if any snacks remained inside the boxes once they were reunited with their owners, they would get a chance to eat them. So the dogs got a little devious.

Researchers observed the pooches leading the co-operative partner to the box containing the sausage more often than expected by chance. They led the competitive partner to the sausage less often than expected by chance. And here’s where things get really interesting: the dogs took the competitive partner to the empty box more frequently than the co-operative partner, suggesting that they were working through their options and engaging in deliberate deception to maximize their chances of getting both treats.

“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?’,” writes Coren.

“These results show that dogs distinguished between the co-operative and the competitive partner,” the authors of the study write, “and indicate the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception.”

Rest assured, dog lovers: your pooches may be sneaky, but they still love you more than cats.

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter


 The article from Brigit opened up with a picture of a pair of eyes; a pair of dog’s eyes.

I don’t know about you but some dogs have eyes that reach out and seem to illuminate one’s soul.

Our Oliver has just that set of eyes. I will close today’s post with a photograph of Oliver’s eyes that was taken yesterday afternoon.

Talk about the power of non-verbal communication!


27 thoughts on “Dogs: Aren’t They Incredible!

  1. Maggie is a master at manipulation. She will sit right in front of her treats & she will stare at us until someone complies with her wishes. She is incredibly clever. Terrific article, Paul!
    Great share.


  2. Fascinating. I am having trouble reconciling this with my own experience. One of the things I love about dogs is that I feel they have no guile. An example: when I encounter someone walking two dogs. I will often pet one. When I stop and go to pet his partner, the first dog will move over and stick his head in the way so that I continue to pet him. To me this demonstrates a complete lack of guile. There is nothing devious about this action. I don’t ever remember seeing cunning or restraint on the part of a dog. One of the concepts I learned from Cesar Milan’s books and TV shows is that dog’s live totally in the now.


    1. The way that dogs live in the present is quite remarkable. Yet within a framework of deeply understanding patterns of household behaviors and signaling what they like. The product of tens of thousands of years of dogs and humans living together. Fabulous!


  3. My friend’s dog, who I dog-sit on occasion and who visits quite frequently, has figured out that there’s no need for him to walk down the stairs from the second floor of my house. I carried him downstairs once and that immediately lodged in his brain as the most efficient inter-floor means of transportation possible. A few bum wiggles, a few whimpers as he stands on the top stair and he knows what will happen. Always. Not coincidentally, my friend sent me your referenced article above earlier today.


    1. First. a very warm welcome to this place and a big ‘thank you’ for you deciding to follow my daily ramblings! (Say a big ‘thank you’ to your friend!)

      Secondly, we understand perfectly what you are describing. Each day Jean and I have a quick lunch and then take the dogs out for a walk and play time. The moment Jean brings out the after-lunch teas the dogs start chasing around the living-room, barking and being right “pains in the arse”, if you will forgive the language. Each day I shout at them to be quiet, to wait, and each day they ignore me because they know that each day I will gulp down my tea and go outside with them!!

      Lastly, you and I, and your friend, wouldn’t have it any other way!


  4. I don’t think anyone who has had many dogs could deny the fact that certain dogs will ‘work you’ for a treat (or any other purpose to which they are suited). Our little cattle dog rescue Lucy is currently on a binge. She turns her formerly starving nose up at most anything, waiting for some of those special biscuit treats. Now she’ll dig holes and pout if Chris doesn’t take her for a truck ride and run in what she deems too long a time (3 days?). Funny creatures.


  5. Pingback: Paul Handover
  6. This article popped up after I responded to todays post but I also have to respond to this one as I need to tell you about Mimi. Mimi is my coon hound black lab mix and she will NOT make eye contact with you when a treat is involved. She will come sit by you and look off in the distance like “I am not looking at you”, then she will cut her eyes sideways just to make sure the treat is still there. Its hilarious.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.