Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany have now proved that dogs take into account whether or not they are being watched before helping themselves to a tasty snack.
The dogs were placed in a room with a snack treat, and told not to eat it. As long as the person stayed in the room the dogs generally left the food alone, but if the watcher left the room the snack was gone seconds later.
They also tested situations where the dog was not being directly watched – viewer had eyes closed, back turned, or was playing a computer game. The dogs stole twice as many of the snacks as when being directly watched.
The team also noted that if the dog was being watched then 75% of the time it would take an indirect “innocent” approach to the snack rather than going directly for it. If it thought it wasn’t being watched then only 24% took the roundabout route.
If all these “walking round behind you or waiting until you’re not looking” tactics sound very familiar when applied to farmyard collies or belligerent bulldogs then presumably the answer is fairly simple. Keep your eye on the dog and it’s far less likely to help itself to a chunky calf sized chew.
Now all we need to do is to work out why some dogs stop at right angles to bikes on narrow tracks and then refuse to move, however nicely you ask. We reckon they’ve just learned that from their owners though.