Sometimes, people post beautiful pictures of wolves or lions or something equally majestic and carnivorous on Facebook. Sometimes, these pictures are accompanied by some saying that basically equates to “animals are better than humans because animals don’t/can’t lie.”
This is a LIE.
Admittedly, my evidence is anecdotal, but I think any dog trainer could tell you the same thing: yes, animals lie. Even scientists agree that animals lie. Dogs are fairly good liars, time to time. I’m reminded of an incident last night in which I gave each of the three dogs a bone. Bean (who would like to retain control of ALL the bones) got up suddenly, dashed to the window, and started barking. The other two of course followed suit and ran to the windows, wildly barking… while Bean quietly took their bones and piled them with hers, then proceeded to guard the pile. Of course, I took away all the bones, and Bean gave me a look that said very plainly, “Hey! I earned that!”
I will give you another such example. I was taking Bean to an agility class that neither of us were really enjoying all that much. One day, about an hour before I got home, my husband called me. “Bean is limping,” he said. “I’m not sure what happened, but it looks pretty bad.” Naturally, I rushed home and examined Bean who was indeed limping. I thought maybe it was temporary, but knew we couldn’t make class that night – going over jumps would just be too much. So we didn’t go, and about an hour or so later, Bean was acting like her normal self and tearing around the house again.
The next week, the same thing happened. I let Bean in from outside, and suddenly she was limping. I frantically went over my routine, trying to find the reason that she might be limping – were we doing something on that specific day that was causing her injury? I again checked her paws and cancelled going to the class, but I was a little more skeptical this time… especially as she started to run around without impediment an hour later, when it was clear we weren’t going to class.
The following week, when the same thing happened again, I was wise to it. I loaded her into the car, despite how the limp seemed to worsen as we went out the front door, and took her to agility. The whole way to the training center, she laid quietly on the front seat, her head in my lap. When we got there, I lifted her out of the car. Other dogs and their people were going in the door to the facility and one of the dogs started barking and wagging its tail at Bean. Bean, in one moment of pure doggyness, forgot her “limp” and began prancing around as if nothing happened. This continued until we went into the center.
There, after a frustrating first run where Bean refused to take some obstacles and completely ignored me at others, Bean lost it. She threw a temper tantrum. She tried to get out of her leash. She barked at me, at the other dogs, at the people on the floor – not the happy “I want to go!” bark, but the “Oh my GOD I am ANGRY” Shrek bark. I tried to refocus her by having her do some basic obedience, she turned her back on me and began lunging at the dog next to her, which she had never done before. She whined, chewed on her leash, refused to listen. That this was occurring in front of family, as my mother showed up for the class to see Bean run, was even more embarrassing. Our second run went a little better, but I could tell that Bean was not happy at all, and she refused point-blank to do tunnels unless lured with a handful of treats Usually tunnels were her favorite.
We were kind of stuck in the center, too, as we couldn’t leave when there was another dog on the floor, so she just continued to let me know her displeasure. The final straw came when she refused to get up from the floor unless I lured her with treats… and then she would stand up, take a treat, and lie back down again.
When we left, she couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
So can animals lie? I think so. Bean certainly seemed to be lying to me about her limp. I did have her checked out by a vet after the last class, who deemed her to be in perfect health and did an x-ray of her joints just to be sure.
“It’s possible she was just pretending,” he said after I described what happened, including the 45-minute ‘temper tantrum’. “Maybe she didn’t want to go to the class.”
“I think so,” I agreed with him. “I knew dogs could trick other dogs, but I’ve never seen a dog actively trick a human.”
He laughed. “They’re smarter than we give them credit for. She looks just fine, though. She was probably just lying to you.”
To date, Bean hasn’t had the limp reoccur. In fact, she participated with enthusiasm at every subsequent class we went to, and hasn’t tried to chew her leash or lunge at another dog since. My conclusion? What a little liar.