Animal Deception – Is Your Dog A Liar?
I was in the grocery store parking lot some years back when I saw a guy giving puppies away out of a cardboard box. It was summer time in Texas and it was a particularly hot day. I didn’t see any water for the little dogs. So being a “Good Samaritan “ I went into the store and bought a large bottle of water and some bowls and took it to the man with the puppies. (He was not appreciative of my efforts).
As I looked in the box I saw seven puppies, all black, all fluffy, and all adorable. One little black cutie walked over the heads of the other puppies to come to me. That was the sign I needed – I couldn’t resist. I wished I could have taken them all but knew I didn’t have enough space so I just took this little guy. I named him “Happy Dog” and Happy Dog grew and grew and GREW until he weighed over 100 pounds. There are many stories I could tell about Happy Dog but this article is on deception and lies so I’ll just give you a great example of how sneaky Happy Dog was.
One day as I was sitting at the dinner table I noticed Happy Dog slinking down the hall. His head was down between his shoulders and he was looking to see if anyone noticed him. He looked sneaky. He slowly went into the bedroom. I started to follow him stealthy so as not to arouse his suspicions. From the foot of the bed, he looked around and then carefully put his head under the comforter and slowly crawled up on the bed. Happy Dog knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the bed under the comforter but I think this big guy figured that if he was under covers, I couldn’t see him. It took intelligence – the ability to think – and a sense of right and wrong to plan and to implement this action.
African hunting dogs usually hunt in a pack of 15 to 30 and have been known at times to have as many as 100 in the hunting pack. The dogs chase the prey in quadrants from many directions and converge on the prey at one precise moment. This takes the ability to plan and it requires a communication strategy. This clearly shows high intelligence!
Take Koko the gorilla; she could sign, using a thousand-word vocabulary. When a steel sink was torn out of its mooring in her area, her handlers asked her in sign language if she did it. Koko signed back that no, it wasn’t her. Her pet kitty did it. Poor Koko had not thought out this lie thoroughly!
Euclid O. Smith, Department of Anthropology and Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Emory University, states:
“Too often, anthropologists and others interested in the behavioral and neural sciences attribute higher cognitive characteristics to humans without recognizing that other animals may have cognitive capabilities that would seriously question the notion of human uniqueness for conscious thought, self-awareness, and intentional deception.”
And he also stated that:
“It is important to note that the similarity in patterns of deceit between human and nonhuman animals has been recognized and clearly articulated for over four decades.”
My dogs Mimi and Mister Casper are two very different personalities. Mimi tells on herself when she does something wrong. She hides under the bed and we have to coax her out. Guilt and shame are all over her face. Sometimes she will crawl to us, eyes averted. There are times we can’t figure out what bad thing Mimi has done.
Mister Casper on the other hand will look at us with his big, brown, beautiful eyes with no hint of his naughty deed on his face. And yet, we had just watched him turn the trash over. Further, when Mister Casper is in trouble, Mimi feels guilty. When Mimi is in trouble, Casper is delighted.
In Happy Dog’s case he slinked to the bedroom, not wanting to be caught for something he was going to do. He must have thought about it for a long time.
Observe your pet closely and you will see how wonderfully intelligent these little beings are. Watch how they can deceive and manipulate us. It’s really a joy to behold.
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Guest post courtesy of Gayle Pruitt. Gayle is a certified nutritionist and chef. She is on the Health Advisory Board and writes forNutricula Magazine and Petological, a magazine from the pet’s perspective. Pruitt’s recipes have appeared in national magazines and in bestselling cookbooks such as Hampton’s Diet Cookbook. She lives with her two naughty mutts, Mimi and Casper, in Dallas, Texas.
This article was previously published September 12, 2013, and was updated on June 26, 2023.
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