We know that dogs can take a guilty expression, but usually they are given great sincerity and transparency. Yet, a recent study shows that dogs are able to assume “deceptive behaviour”.

In a series of experiments, dogs tended to lead a human “competitor” away from food when they thought that man would keep it for himself. However, the same dogs happily bring their “cooperative” companion to their destination, knowing that they would receive some of the food.


In the study it was verified whether in a situation of choice dogs are able to mislead a human competitor, that is, if they are capable of tactical deception. During training, dogs experienced the role of their owner, cooperative, and two strangers, one who acted “cooperatively” giving food to the animal and the other being “competitive” and keeping food for themselves.

During the test, the dog had the opportunity to lead one of these partners to one of the three positions where there could be food: one contained a preferred food product, a second a non-preferred food product and a third was empty. 

The dog would have a direct advantage in deceiving the “competitive” partner as it would then have another chance to receive the owner’s favourite food. It is exactly what the animals did, thus showing that dogs distinguish between cooperative or competitive behaviour of the owner and they have flexibility in adapting their behaviour, even using tactical deception.