Don’t let those big, puppy dog eyes fool you: man’s best friend is capable of deception.
Researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland studied dog’s reactions to different humans, one who doled out treats and another who kept them.
After the dogs learned who was the cooperative and competitive partner, they were taken to a room with three boxes, one with a sausage treat, one with a less appealing dry treat and another with nothing.
The dogs would take the cooperative partner to the most favorable treat and more times than not, they took the competitive handler, who would keep the treat, to the box with nothing.
“They showed an impressive flexibility in behavior,” Marianne Heberlein, lead researcher, told New Scientist. “They’re not just sticking to a strict rule, but thinking about what different options they have. They were really quickly able to differentiate between the two partners. There was no additional learning step needed.”
Heberlein got the idea to study this aspect of dog behavior after watching her own pets. One dog would pretend to see something enticing in the backyard to trick the other dog into giving up the prime sleeping spot, Heberlein told New Scientist.
“This sort of thing happens quite often, but it is not well-studied,” she said.