Can Dogs Lie to Their Owners?

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Have you ever wondered if your dog was being honest? You know your pet well, and you'd like to think that your dog always tells you the truth, but do they really? Can dogs lie? And even if they can, do dogs lie? Let's uncover the answer to that question and see what recent research has to say.

Can Dogs Lie?

It's tough to look at your sweet little furry companion and think that they may have the ability to conceal the truth. You'd like to believe that your pet is too cute, too good of a friend and too loving to willingly lie to you. However, recent research shows that dogs will be deceptive, or not "tell" the truth, if it benefits them in some way.

Young beagle look back askance, cute but sad muzzle of juvenile doggy, sitting on front seat of small car. Pensive black eyes and long ears

In a study completed by researchers at the University of Zurich and published in Animal Cognition, dogs were presented with a cooperative human counterpart and a competitive human counterpart. The person labeled as "cooperative" was the one who shared any treats with the dog once the treats were presented in the study. The person labeled "competitive" presented the treats to the dog for viewing, kept the treats themselves and did not share with dogs.

As the study went on, the dogs were asked to lead their human counterparts to one of three boxes — one was empty, another contained a plain biscuit and the third contained sausages, which were deemed to be the canine's top treat. The results showed that, when asked, the dogs were most likely to lead the "cooperative" counterpart to the box with the sausages, but they'd lead the "competitive" counterpart away from that box to one of the others.

The dogs simply didn't want to share their sausages, and they knowingly led the "competitive" counterpart away from the sausages, so the competitor wouldn't take them away — further proving that the dogs would deceive if it benefited them.

What to Do About Dog Deception

Because there are no tell-tale signs that your dog is lying, there is very little you can do to determine whether or not your dog is actually trying to deceive you. This isn't to say you should be suspicious of your pet from now on. Your dog is likely an honest creature who craves your love and attention. They just may have figured out the quickest way to get what they want from you.

When this study was discussed in an article for Psychology Today, an example was given of a dog who barks to alert their owner that someone was approaching the house. When the owner checks the window and gives the dog attention — regardless of if someone approaching or not — they reinforce the dog's attempt at getting attention.

Could your dog be doing something similar? Potentially! But your dog likely doesn't have bad intentions. We all try to put ourselves in the best situations, don't we? Because of this, there's very little you can do to "correct" any behaviors you may think are deceiving. Just love your dog, set clear and firm boundaries and enjoy your lives together!

Don't let the worrying that your dog might be lying to you keep you up at night. Now you know that even the kindest furry friend can manipulate situations to achieve what they believe is in their best interest, but it's all in the name of spoiling them a little more.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Instagram @ErinOllila or learn more about her at