Is Your Dog a Liar or Honest?


Do you take your dog’s word for it? If they say they’re hungry or tired or really have to go out, do you believe them? Is your dog a liar or honest? Mr. N is very much about rules and order and he’s pretty scrupulous about obeying the letter of the law. I believe him when he says he needs more food or has to go out to the bathroom but we’ve lived with dogs that wasn’t the case. A study was done that showed that dogs would trick people in order to get tasty food. Sound like something your dog would do?

Is Your Dog a Liar
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Food Honesty

Sometimes Mr. N will come up to me and tell me that he’s hungry even though he has been fed his regular meals. I will usually give him a few extra tidbits because I trust him to be honest about being hungry. He’s not overweight though (if anything, he chronically runs slightly underweight) and he’s not greedy. He could probably free feed and not get fat. Back when we were feeding prey model raw, I would give him a rabbit quarter or something and he would eat until he was full and then walk away.

We had a foster dog who was chronically hungry and constantly begging for food. I monitored his food intake very carefully and he never got extra food unless there was a good reason for it. He was one of those dogs that would bolt down breakfast and then try to convince someone that he hadn’t been fed so I never believed him when he complained that he was hungry. Otherwise he’d be a Chihuahua barrel and we could roll him down the street.

I can also leave out food and it will sit there untouched. We left out a bag of on the ground for two days and it was still pristine when I found it and moved it out of the way. If there’s around the house, he knows they’re his and he’s allowed to have them but treats are to be doled out.

Reward Honesty

We’re working on Mr. N’s dog reactivity using the method among other things. Occasionally he will look up at me for a treat reward when I don’t see anything that could be potentially triggering him. I give him the benefit of the doubt though and give him the treat anyway because he has a better sense of smell and hearing and I figure there is probably something out there that I can’t see.

After a particularly strenuous encounter with another dog, Mr. N will sometimes think that the reward is not commensurate with the amount of effort it took to ignore said dog. He gets a few extra treats when that’s the case and he’s happy to move on after that. The aforementioned Chihuahua would have sat there and demanded an endless stream of treats.

Is Your Dog a Liar 3
Treat, please!

Bathroom Honesty

Mr. N has never “lied” about wanting to go to the bathroom when he doesn’t have to. I have heard of dogs who just want to go out and play and they will ring even they don’t need to urinate or go scratch the door.

Energy Level Honesty

Mr. N is never tired. We’re pretty sure the unidentifiable five percent in his Embark DNA results is from being related to the Energizer Bunny. If he wants to be picked up and carried on a walk, there’s a very good reason for it. Either it’s too hot for him to be walking and he wants to go home or he’s injured or he’s worried about stepped on or something else of that nature.

Barking Honesty

If Mr. N is barking at the door, there is definitely someone there. Whether it’s a visitor or our neighbor across the hall or most likely a delivery person throwing a package at the door and leaving. When he barks, he barks for what he considers a good reason and I generally agree with said reasons.  He’s a reliable barker which assuages my mind when I’m home alone. Correspondingly, we listen to him when he barks.The neighbors had a break-in a while back when people climbed through their window to rob the place while they were sleeping. That wouldn’t happen at our place without advance warning. Said neighbors have cats.

My Part of the Bargain

Accordingly, I try my best to be honest with the pup as well. I try not to promise things I can’t deliver. And if I promise something he gets it, and if I can’t for some reason, he gets it later or something else to make up for it. I don’t lie that vet visits are going to be pleasant. I do promise that they will be over soon. Mr. N is also good at ferreting out attempts to trick him and he does not approve. When I was trying to teach  him to speak, we would fake knock on the wall or the door to try to incite him to bark. It never worked and he would give us a disgusted look.

Mr. N also knows how to get what he wants within reason so I think that also takes away a big incentive to “lie.” With me anyway. He is also, however, perfectly willing to take advantage of strangers who don’t know the rules though.

Is Your Dog a Liar 2
Mr. N says play with me please.

Circumventing The Rules

I admit I find Mr. N’s attempts at finding loopholes entertaining and sometimes reward his efforts. He generally doesn’t break rules but he figures finding a way around them is totally fair game.

Mr. N is not allowed in the kitchen without permission and he knows this. Stale Cheerios blogger, Mary Hunter came to Portland for a training conference and we had lunch together. I gave Mr. N his while we ate and he was playing with it. It kept rolling into the kitchen though and we would roll it back out of the kitchen to him. Mary commented that she thought he wanted attention and was trying to initiate play with us by rolling the food toy into the kitchen.

If he tries to set up the circumstances to get what he wants, that’s fine by me as long as he plays by the rules.

Do you consider your dog a liar or honest? Are they shameless about trying to get what they want?





27 Responses

  1. The Daily Pip

    April 14, 2017 2:25 pm

    What a fun post! I think Ruby is pretty honest – though she is always hungry, but I think some of her hunger is stress-related. She eats when she is stressed – like me!

  2. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    April 14, 2017 3:32 pm

    We are glad to hear Mr. N is honest! My house is full of a bunch of lying kitties! MOL! They try to tell me they’re hungry all the time, even if they just ate. If my husband fed them a meal, and then I get home right after, they will often try to convince me that “dad” hasn’t fed them yet. I’ve fallen for it a couple of times! 😉

  3. Debbie Bailey

    April 14, 2017 3:56 pm

    Aww, what a good boy Mr. N is. I’d say our dogs are pretty honest. When Roxie was younger, she would ALWAYS sit at the door like she had to go potty. Then again, she may have just been trying to tell us that she wanted to go back outside… but being a young pup still working on potty training, I think she also knew we would ALWAYS let her out, even if she just came back in. LOL. She’s grown out of that though. The other day, I left an open jar of peanut butter on the kitchen counter overnight! Ahh… I opened it up to give Roxie her meds at bedtime and I was SO tired that I forgot and left it out.. OPENED. In the morning, I was happy to find it still sitting there untouched. I know how strong that must have smelled to all 4 of them all night long.. such good pups.

  4. Jana Rade

    April 14, 2017 4:29 pm

    Interesting way to ask the question. I think they ARE honest about things; just because you had dinner it doesn’t mean you couldn’t go for a treat. Just because you don’t have to go pee, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to go chase a squirrel. I think it’s our perception which makes us believe they’re asking to go to potty, for example, when, in fact, they are simply asking to go out for whatever honest reason they might have for ti. 😉

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      April 17, 2017 2:26 pm

      Well it’s not just with humans. I’ve seen Mr. N “lie” and trick other dogs before. He wanted the spot that our foster dog was using so he pretended like he wanted to play and they wrestled for thirty seconds before he ran back to the spot the foster was using and went to sleep.

  5. Carleen

    April 15, 2017 11:48 am

    My dogs will totally tell my husband that they are starving and need dinner right after I have fed them, lol! But then I think they also are always hungry and wanting food.

  6. Kamira Gayle

    April 15, 2017 5:14 pm

    Oh I’d love to believe all animals are innocent but I can see that’s NOT quite the case. They can be quite crafty. I had a good feeling Mr. N is a cut above the rest! 🙂

  7. Denise Gruzensky

    April 15, 2017 8:21 pm

    What a fascinating concept. I’ve never really framed it that way but it is PAWsitively spot on. Both Harley and Shasta have used the manupulation concept but not to the extent of Mr. N. Both have been food mongrels and could/can not be trusted to graze. As Shasta has aged he is becoming very picky and has actually left a bowl of food for several hours. We are constantly looking for ways to help his aging taste buds and appetite. Caru and Wellness Truefood seem to be best.
    I’ve said before and I will again, I think Mr. N is an exceptional dog and one of the smartest I’ve met.

  8. Jan K

    April 16, 2017 5:41 am

    This was so interesting – it’s something I’d never really thought about. I’m afraid I have to say our Cricket is a liar – many times she’s been sitting at the kitchen cabinet looking at me, but when I ask Dad if she got her after-dinner treat, he says “yes, she has”!
    But if she says she needs to go out to pee, I don’t doubt her, even if it’s the middle of the night. We’ve learned our lesson with senior dogs before, and it’s not a chance we want to take!

  9. Ruth Epstein

    April 16, 2017 1:19 pm

    Layla is honest most of the time, I free feed her and she eats when she is hungry and never asks for me, she is the perfect weight so have no problems with that, One of her games yes can be to want to go out especially when I am finally sitting down in the evenings but knowing that she had been out a couple or less hours ago for at least an hour I know its a game so I ignore her, In general I cannot complain she is a good girl

  10. Lola The Rescued Cat

    April 16, 2017 2:26 pm

    My niece’s dog frequently seeks out human food when we’re eating. I highly doubt he’s always hungry every time begs, since he’s fed on a regular schedule. Maybe dogs are like humans who like an extra snack every now and then?

  11. Beth

    April 16, 2017 5:44 pm

    Theo thinks all is fair in love and food! I can’t leave any food unattended in Theo’s presence, and while I thought Sophie had pretty good manners, I recently caught her trying to get something off the counter.

    I believe all my dogs when they bark, and they don’t ask to go outside unless one of them really needs to go.

  12. Jessica Shipman | Beagles & Bargains

    April 19, 2017 2:46 pm

    This post really made me think. I always joke that Luna is a jerk or extra grumpy, but I don’t think she is a liar. She’s very clear with what she wants – food always. She doesn’t pretend to be hungry, but she will stare at you and potentially bark if she doesn’t get what she wants. And if you leave food unattended, she might just steal it. So not a liar, just a jerk.

  13. Beth (@dailydogtag)

    September 17, 2017 4:10 pm

    When it comes to food, my dogs are shameless liars. They will happily eat a second breakfast and pretend they are starving. As far barking goes, I believe there is someone there, but it may just be a squirrel.


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