Your Dog Can Tell When You’re Lying

We know that dogs can sense when their humans are upset, happy or angry. But, did you know that dogs can also sense when we are lying? In fact, dogs will actually keep track of whether people lie or tell the truth so that they can figure out which people they can depend on.


According to research published in Animal Cognition, dogs are able to remember if a person is trustworthy. The dog then makes the decision on whether to follow the person's orders based on the dog’s formulated opinion of the human. According to scientists, dogs learn the people they are able to depend on, when it comes to things like food for example.


It was already known that if a person points at something, a dog is able to follow the cue and go to where they’re being directed. For example, if the dog’s owner points to the location of their food, treats, or toys, the dog will accordingly run towards the location.


However, it was revealed more recently that pups are quick to determine whether the gestures of their humans are misleading or not.

dog looking

Akiko Takaoka and her team of researchers at Kyoto University in Japan studied whether dogs automatically follow human pointing gestures or whether they adjust their behavior depending upon the “reliability of the pointer.” The researchers presented 34 dogs with various rounds of pointing gestures, some accurately leading the dog and others that were misleading.


In round one of the first experiment, the researchers correctly pointed to where the food was hidden in a container. In round two, the researchers pointed to an empty container. In round three, the experimenters pointed once again to the container with food just like they did in round one.


The dogs’ responses to the experimenter's gestures in round one and round three were compared. It was found that most dogs followed the pointing gestures in round one, but in round three, many fewer followed the pointing gestures.


In the second experiment, the first two rounds remained the same as the first experiment, but round three had the dogs following a new experimenter’s pointing gestures. In this case, when the new researcher pointed them towards the container with the food, they did as they were told and found the food.


Akiko Takaoka told the BBC that she was shocked to find that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly, which points to their sophisticated social intelligence.


The study also reinforces the concept that dogs like consistency and predictability. In fact, according to John Bradshaw, a veterinary specialist at the University of Bristol in the UK, dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them will often develop “behavioral disorders” and could become stressed.


Dogs are incredibly clever creatures and have become socially aware of humans as a result of their long history with them. So, next time you lie to your pup, don’t be surprised if they don’t fall for it! They may not be as gullible as we tend to think.

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written by

Katelyn Buck

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