Why your dog took your cookie and didn’t admit to it
You know it. Your dog knows it. He stares at you with those big puppy dog eyes, a formidable weapon that has evolved over thousands of years for this very moment. Neither of you budge, but you have things to do and decide to let him off the hook this time. You’re absolutely convinced that your furry housemate has been lying to you. But is it actually true or did you have too much coffee again? Can animals lie?
Yes, he took the cookie.
Animals can be dishonest, and there’s proof! A study by Dr Juliane Kaminski of the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology looked at whether or not dogs were more likely to steal food in a dark room. The results are exactly what you may think. When told not to take a piece of food, dogs were more likely to steal in the dark because there was less chance of being caught. Therefore, dogs take into account whether or not we can see the food when deciding if they should steal.
But what about other animals?
Dishonesty is hard to study in animals because their sneakiness is difficult to pick up on. To know if animals are lying, you have to understand how they are communicating and what they may be talking about. However, there are a few animals that scientists have found to be outstanding liars especially in the game of love. Here are two examples:
Fiddler crabs: “Bigger is better, and mine is bigger!”
Frank the fiddler crab was in a mess. He was tired of hearing love stories from his friends, and he was tired of being the third wheel. He longed for a female companion of his own, but his dreams had been shattered by the tragic accident that resulted in him losing his large fiddle claw. Fiddler crabs use their large claw to wave at female crabs, showing off how strong and powerful they are. Where Frank’s impressive claw used to be, he had regrown a replacement claw that was lighter and much weaker. Now no girls would ever find him attractive…but wait! Frank sprang to life once again. What if he pretended that his claw was strong? The girls wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, they would only see a large claw! And if other guy’s try and fight him…he’ll just have to keep bluffing! Fake it till you make it!
Crickets: “You gotta sing like it’s the end of the world!”
Timothy the cricket was nearing the end of his life. He was getting old, and was pained by sickness. His only regret was that he was never able to find love, and he felt hopelessly alone. Crickets sing songs to females in order to attract them. Once a female hears a song that she particularly likes, she approaches the male and receives a gift from him. Timothy had tried to do this many times but his songs were never good enough. The females had always chosen other stronger and healthier crickets. But tonight, he was filled with a renewed sense of determination. He knew that there wasn’t much time left and with that in mind he decided to sing his final song. The song was beautiful, and sounded as if it was sung by a younger and stronger Timothy. The female crickets perked their ears, wondering who sang such a pleasant song. Timothy knew that the female crickets would be misled; he was not the young bachelor that they were looking for. It was a lie, and he knew that he was nowhere as beautiful as his voice. But it was the end of his life and he thought that it was ok to tell a tall tale. Just this once.
It all comes at a cost!
Dishonesty is always rare because lying comes at a cost. For example, if male fiddler crabs decide to call Fred’s bluff and actually fight him, he would lose miserably. Timothy needed to use a lot of energy to sing his song, which would have left him in worse shape than before. There are all sorts of reasons why lying all the time would be a terrible and dangerous idea. Which is why your dog only takes the cookie sometimes…and you’ll never know when.