Owner Brings Coughing Dog to Vet, Learns Dog Has Been Tricking Him This Whole Time

Lovesickness can be an illness many of us have, and even more so for our furry companions that are left behind every day.

For this clever pup, he created his own creative tactic, forcing his owners to be along-side him and keep him company.

Sullivan lives in Utah with his owners, Alex and Kennady. One morning, Kennady decided to spend her lunch break at home and when it came time to leave, her pooch began making an odd coughing noise, concerning Kennady.

“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.”

Anxious of Sullivan’s well-being, she decided to call her husband and let him what was happening.

Since she couldn’t stay with Sullivan, her husband Alex decided to come home early to keep him company and make sure things didn’t get worse.

Sure enough, right as Alex got home, he was surprised to notice that the odd coughing noises coming from Sullivan earlier are gone.

With an extra dose of love and affection, Sullivan’s coughing has magically disappeared! That evening, it seemed Sullivan was as healthy as ever.

“We figured he must have just gotten something stuck in his throat and finally got it out,” Kennady said. The next morning, however, when the couple was getting ready for work, the coughing from Sullivan was back again.

Worried for his well-being, Alex chose to stay with the dog another day, off from work, and take him to the vet later on. In hopes to pinpoint the cause of the odd noise, several tests were run but only concluded to one condition, that he was perfectly healthy. The cough? FAKE.

“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.

Apparently, this is not uncommon for dogs to do and a common practice for them to receive a little extra attention when they want it. Dr. Jill Sackman, head of the Behaviour Medicine Service at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, says this is related to the phenomena 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, Sullivan’s odd coughing noises have stopped probably after he noticed that doing so is like wielding a double-edged sword; it brings him more attention but also trips to the vet.

“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.”


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