Do Dogs Know When We’re Lying?

Recent studies have indeed shown that dogs are quite capable of knowing when their owners are lying to them. One particular study, published in the journal ‘Animal Cognition’, found that dogs can learn which human beings they can rely on to tell the truth and which ones they can’t. This  strongly suggests that dogs have a more complex social intelligence than previously thought. Read our Holidays4Dogs article to find out more about how dogs know when we’re lying.

Previous research has demonstrated that dogs can follow human pointing gestures – better, in fact, than chimpanzees. This ability was the starting point for researchers to discover if dogs are capable of detecting when someone is lying, or being deceitful.

In one study, carried out by researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. 34 dogs were presented with two containers, – one with food and one without. However, the empty container was made to smell like the one which contained food, so the dogs were unable to cheat by using their noses.

During the first test, researchers pointed accurately to the container with food inside, before releasing the dogs to investigate. In the next test the experimenter – misleadingly – pointed to the empty container.

1342292607427In the final experiment, the dogs repeated the first test but this time, rather than following the cue, the dogs did not respond to the pointing gesture. To ascertain this was not simply because the dogs became bored, or de-motivated, researchers repeated the experiment with unfamiliar people. In this final experiment, results were the same.

This is very interesting research on a number of levels. Not least because, it demonstrates our dogs are able to act on information, based on how reliable they think it is.

Domesticated dogs living closely with people have learnt, over time, how to interpret cues from humans. Indeed, it would appear pet dogs are very clever at reading human behaviour – and more so than first thought.