Dogs are capable of deceiving humans to get more food, according to a new study.
Researchers found that dogs could learn to lead a human partner to an empty box, rather than one containing a treat, if the human was likely to keep the treat for themselves.
Dogs in the study carried out by Marianne Heberlein at the University of Zurich were paired with two human partners, leading each of them to one of three boxes – one containing a sausage, one a dog biscuit and the third nothing at all.
One of the two partners always gave the dog the treat contained in the box, while the other always kept the treat for themselves.
— Prince the Pug (@pugnamedprince) March 9, 2017
After this, the dogs were encouraged to do the same with their owners.
“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,” read the study.
On the first day, the dogs led the partner who always gave them the food to the sausage box more often than could be expected by chance.
On the second, the dogs led the partner who kept the food for themselves more often to the empty box.
According to the study, this behaviour shows “the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception”.
Naughty little blighters.