“Hey But That’s Cheating” -Dog

March 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Part of me clapped and grinned whilst watching this video (yeah yeah it’s from yesterday but I HAD OTHER THINGS TO DO OK?) because dogs are some of my favorite people — all they want is to do right by the humans they love, and they just try so hard no matter what! But another part of me thought the basic premise –haw haw let’s see what happens when we disappear some dog treats– was a little mean, an idea echoed by this article discussing the moral lives of dogs. Dogs have rules, you know, the most important of which is DON’T LIE. Here are some highlights:

Play bows [when dogs crouch down to indicate they’re just playing] are honest signals, a sign of trust. Research shows that animals who violate that trust are often ostracized, suggesting that violation of the rules of play is maladaptive and can disrupt the efficient functioning of the group. For example, among dogs, coyotes, and wolves, individuals who don’t play fairly find that their invitations to play are ignored or that they’re simply avoided by other group members. Marc’s long-term field research on coyotes living in the Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, Wyo., shows that coyotes who don’t play fairly often leave their pack because they don’t form strong social bonds. Such loners suffer higher mortality than those who remain with others.

Play can sometimes get out of hand for animals, just as it does for human beings. When play gets too rough, canids keep things under control by using bows to apologize. For example, a bow might communicate something like, “Sorry I bit you so hard—I didn’t mean it, so let’s continue playing.” For play to continue, it’s important for individuals to forgive the animal who violated the rules. Once again there are species differences among young canids. Highly aggressive young coyotes bow significantly more frequently than dogs or wolves before and after delivering bites that could be misinterpreted.

The social dynamics of play require that players agree to play and not to eat one another or fight or try to mate. When there’s a violation of those expectations, others react to the lack of fairness. For example, young coyotes and wolves react negatively to unfair play by ending the encounter or avoiding those who ask them to play and then don’t follow the rules. Cheaters have a harder time finding play partners.


And that’s what the above video is doing, very cutely, but still, that cookie is a LIE! Not cool man. Not cool.


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