His owners thought he was sick, but he was just lovesick.
The cheeky Sullivan resides in Utah with his humans, Alex & Kennady. Recently, Kennady decided to come home during her lunch break to indulge in a meal with the company of her pupper. When it came time to return to work, however, Sullivan suddenly began making a rough coughing sound that had her immediately concerned.
“It really, really freaked me out,” Kennady told The Dodo. “He was wagging his tail and running around and just wanted to play but also kept making this horrific noise.”
Kennady called her husband to let him know what was going on. As she had to return to work, Alex decided to come home from work early to spend time with Sullivan and make sure he didn’t get any worse. And with that, Sullivan’s mysterious cough disappeared!
By that evening, it seemed that Sullivan was all clear. “We figured he must have just gotten something stuck in his throat and finally got it out,” Kennady said.
The next morning, however, as the couple prepared to head off to work, Sullivan began coughing again. As a worried doggo dad, Alex decided to stay home from work for the day to again, keep an eye on Sullivan and figure out what was going on. Little did Alex know, Sullivan had him wrapped around his paw.
Later that day, Alex decided a trip to the vets was his best bet of pinpointing exactly what was happening to his beloved pup. After a few simple tests, it concluded that his doggo was in absolutely perfect health. Oh and that cough he had? You guessed it, totally fake.
husband stayed home from work cuz our dog was coughing. We took him to the vet and paid 85$ for him to tell us OUR DOG WAS FAKE COUGHING
— Greg Expectations (@Kennnaughty) November 2, 2017
Just to be 100% sure, the couple consulted some other vets about Sullivan’s mystery cough.
“Almost all of them said he could be acting sick in the mornings or when we leave him because he knows if he acts different or sick we pay more attention to him and stay with him,” Kennady said.
It turns out, such fakery in pets is not unheard of.
Dr. Jill Sackman, head of the Behavior Medicine Service at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, says this is in line with a phenomenon called operant conditioning:
“Dogs certainly can learn that certain behaviors result in things that are good — such as a cough or a sneeze results in owner attention,” Sackman told The Dodo. “I wouldn’t say that this is faking it … but rather they are so clever that they realize that the behavior results in a reward.”
Fortunately, for both Sullivan and his parents, Sullivan has stopped coughing. Kennady suspects that their cheeky pupper realized that faking sickness is a catch 22 – extra TLC from your humans is great, but trips to the vets are not.
“I’m actually not surprised at all that he could pull this off,” she said. “He has been an insanely smart dog since we got him when he was a puppy. He learned and picked up on stuff really fast. He’s a really great dog.”