Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Stealth Dogs Steal Food in the Dark and Snatch it Quietly

Two recent studies of our best friends show they're crafty thieves. In the first, dogs preferred to steal food in the dark and in the second, dogs tried to hide auditory but not visual cues. Both studies show dogs are able to take into account the perspective of the humans when trying to steal food they had previously been forbidden to have. Read More

Some dogs, not others

>"Domestic dogs conceal auditory but not visual information from others">

I was VERY surprised to read this, because my cat-food-pinching dogs are as good as gold when they know I can see them, but haven't yet worked out that I can HEAR them pinching the food (stainless steel dished on glazed tile) and always seem horrified that I manage to 'catch them in the act' :-(

Pattern recognition > learned behaviors ≠ perspective taking

I think these results can be explained through pattern recognition, i.e., dogs have learned through experience that their access isn't blocked or that their behaviors aren't punished when it's dark, etc. After all, the statistical likelihood that an owner will interrupt or punish a dog's behavior when the owner can't see or hear what the dog is doing has to be close to 0.

I also believe that dogs can feel when their owner's attention is or isn't focused on them. That could also be a factor.

Also, unless and until these results are replicated, they're intriguing but not very meaningful.

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Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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