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Do Dogs lie?

  1. Apr 30, 2003 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    My wife and I are animal lovers. We don't watch the pet psychic and we don't have funerals for our pets. I do enjoy analyzing out pets' [cats and dogs] behaviors and something really interesting occurred to me. My pets tell willful lies! Both cats and dogs clearly understand that they are not to do certain things. For example, the cats know that their not supposed to be on the kitchen cabinets. So what do they do, the smart ones that is, they wait until we go to bed and then they have a party in the kitchen. They understand a law and then follow a calculated and deceitful strategy to obtain their goal...the chicken bones! Also, my dogs are well trained and stay within the bounds of our five acres...until we go to sleep. I realized that our smartest dog, a Border Collie, would wait until the light went out. She would then sneak past our bedroom window ever so quietly, and then run up on the road and have a party with all of the other willful and deceitful dogs. She also taught our other dogs how the procedure works. When caught, sometime without even looking at me, and without my saying a word, the animal knows they are in trouble.

    Are these examples of lies? Do dogs go to hell? What does this say about sin? What does this say about the intelligence of the animal. One could argue that this indicates a rather high level of intelligence as compared to our normal assumptions about household pets. One thing seem certain, deceit is in the genes!
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  3. Apr 30, 2003 #2
    Deception is a sign of intelligence and some argue it is the basis for what we call personality, ego, etc. In other words, even the sense we have of being unique individuals possessed of a distinctive and singular sense of self could be based on self-deception. This could explain why animals display less personality the less intelligent they are. Cats compete for territory and dogs compete for higher positions within the pack heirarchy. Direct confrontation is not always the most successful or reasonable way to compete for these things.

    Chimps present a more personal glimpse into the world of deception. If the alpha male picks on a low ranking chimp in the troop heirarchy a bit too much, he may sneak up behind him in the middle of night and bash his brains in with a club. Occationally, three to five male chimps will sneak into a neighboring troop of chimps under cover of darkness, and bash their brains in with clubs. Again, usually they will only do this when they feel the neighboring troop is threatening them too much.

    For their part, female chimps who feel the alpha male is being particularly abusive will jump behind the bushes with their favorite male the minute they come into heat. After a while the alpha will no longer be capable of reproducing. As a result, he will likely leave the troop and join another one at the bottom of the social ladder.

    Note that in each case what is at stake is violence and resources, and in each and every case, paradoxically, the more social the animal the more intelligent and deceptive, i.e. the better lies they tell among other things. Humanity has taken deception to new heights and part of that process has been learning to play off people's own self-deceptions.
  4. Apr 30, 2003 #3
    While your pets show a surprising intelligence, what you are seeing isn't lying. Your pets don't want to upset you, as I'm sure you have experienced. When you are around and they get on the counter or on the road they know they will get punished, for some reason they want to be on the counter or in the road, though. So they have found that when you are not around they do not upset you with these actions. They have also found that when you go to bed, or the light turns off, that is the signal for your going to bed, leading to the belief that you won't get upset with these actions.

    It is demonstrated that animals DO lie, to other species, and sometimes there own, which was previously thought impossible. Observations can be made, in a game theory model, that animals lie to their own kind in a stable communication system. It is really on an evolutionary necessity. An example of this would be an experiment, done by Eldridge Adams, that involved Gonodactylus bredini's. They typical engage in a 'fight' in which either one must die. The weaker one would always lose, except sometimes the weaker one will engage in the pre-fight ritual which will sometimes scare off its opponent. This is a type of bluff demonstrates the capability of an animal to lie.

    EDIT: Gonodactylus bredini is a type of stomatopod crustacean. Also took out quoted topic.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2003
  5. Apr 30, 2003 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    You mean I've been sitting through all of this Dr. Phil stuff for nothing!

    Interesting. More Pavlovian than Freudian so to speak? Exactly how do we test for this distinction? Don’t misunderstand, I know how people can get, and I don’t need my dogs or cats to understand me or I them. But it really seems like they do “understand” rather than just react.
  6. Apr 30, 2003 #5
    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.
  7. Apr 30, 2003 #6
    I once had a Weimaraner that while sneaking around inside the house would raise her claws off the tile floor to keep them from clicking and giving her position away. She was a very intelligent animal.
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