Do Dogs Know When We're Teasing Them?

The longer you have your dog, the more in tune the two of you become. Our doggies can sense when we are happy, sad, or if something about us is just a little off. They have great discernment, with a way of telling trustworthy folks from the dishonest ones. But what about when we pretend to throw a ball or show them a magic trick! Do dogs know when we're playfully tricking them?

Beautiful woman giving food to dog from her hand.
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Initially, your dog won't know you're teasing her but eventually, she will catch on.

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan conducted a study to see just how well dogs decipher trustworthiness. In the first round of the experiment, a human pointed to an opaque container that had treats inside, then opened the container, and let the dog eat the treats inside. In the second round, a researcher pointed to another opaque container but then revealed that the container was empty. This left dogs confused and disappointed. In the third round, the human pointed at the treat-filled container once again, but the dogs were not as trusting. They approached the container slowly and sniffed around at the treats before eating them. If you fool a dog once, she will be less likely to trust you in the future.

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When it comes to playful tricking, you can expect similar behavior. If you regularly play fetch with your dog, when she sees the ball in your hand, hoisted up behind your head, she will pant in anticipation, ready to sprint off and retrieve the ball. As soon as your arm flies forward, she sets out on her journey to get the ball! If you're teasing her, however, and did not really throw the ball, she will run around looking for the ball and will will most likely return to you confused. This can happen a couple more times but eventually, your dog will move with hesitation, not knowing if the ball was really thrown or not (even if you do throw it).

Very playful dog breed King Charles Cavalier. This dog run with tenis ball in the garden.
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If you keep teasing a dog, she will no longer trust you.

When teasing is light-hearted, your dog will just see it as play. The first time you show her a disappearance magic trick or pretend to throw the ball, she may be amused at the unexpected outcome. If these actions are followed by a head scratch, a belly rub and a smile, your dog will interpret this as play and may enjoy the extra attention you're showing her. If you keep things fun and light-hearted, your dog should happily enjoy the "game" even if she doesn't really know what's going on.

Girl giving a treat to happy dog.
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You should never tease a dog in a sadistic way. She will pick up on your ill intentions and will no longer trust you. Dogs are extremely perceptive with strong physical senses that can pick up on human emotion. Tricks or games that are vindictive will absolutely result in a dog not trusting you and can also make the dog angry.

You never want to tease a dog that is not your own as you do not know how she will respond to your "game." When approaching a new dog, you want to be as honest and gentle as possible. Bend down and meet the dog on her level, let her sniff you, let her initiate contact before any form of play or pretending takes place. This is for your own safety and the mental stability of the dog.

Chihuahua Puppy in Sunlight
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Conclusion

Dogs have physical senses much stronger than our own that helps them navigate through life. These senses let dogs know when someone is trustworthy or when something is off with their human. When it comes to fun and games, a dog is going to expect the usual behavior from her owner but if the results of the game are different, she will quickly know that you're teasing her or just pretending. Whether she takes this as a fun game or a mean-spirited trick depends on your intentions and actions. She will follow your lead and play along or make it clear that your actions are not acceptable.

growlying pup
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