Thread: Do Dogs lie?
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Apr30-03, 10:24 AM
P: 1,967
Countless animals from fish to wolves will bluff their opponents when their hair stands on end or they arch their backs or puff themselves up to look larger and more imposing. The question of whether or not this kind of behavior is to be considered lying or deception depends upon your point of view. From the point of view that a lie must be intentional rather than reflexive it is much more difficult to determine, but it is not difficult if you just call it lying and deceptive no matter whether it is reflexive and instinctual or not. Thus whether or not cats are being deceptive when they wait for people to leave before jumping on the kitchen counter is debatable.

Another integral aspect of deception, especially in species like cats and people who are competitive within their own species, is long term chronic physiological and psychological impact of violence. Something like forty percent of americans, for example, will suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at some time in their lives. For a small percentage, it will become chronic for the rest of their lives while for others it can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

In studies done with chimps again, the impact of trauma can be severe on the individual's ability to reproduce, fend for itself, socialize, etc. and can even dramatically shorten the lifespan. It also promotes more destructive violence within the species. Hence the animal's ability to accurately ascertain not only whether it can win a fight, but also how much it may have to pay psychologically and physically for winning a fight is crucial. They may win the battle only to loose the war.

I live on a farm with many stray cats, and sometimes they will go to extremes to defend their territory. At other times they will go to extremes to avoid a fight. Between these two extremes some of the more successful ones are those who can out-smart the competition by invading their territory unseen, bluffing their way out of fights, etc. If it ain't lying and deception, I can't tell the difference.