The Dog Who Kept Pushing Kids Into A River To Acquire Steak Rewards

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMar 10 2022, 17:06 UTC
A dog underwater

A dog, probably thinking about some sweet reward beef. Image credit: think4photop/

In 1908 Paris, according to a contemporary story from the New York Times, there lived a dog who was definitely not a good boy.

The story begins with a Newfoundland dog that heard a child screaming for help after they had fallen into the river Seine. The dog, to its credit, searched for the source of the screaming before diving into the river and rescuing him, like a ye olde Lassie.


So far, so good. However, according to the story, the problems began when the dog was rewarded with a nice big slab of meat, which we'd still say is slightly a cheap reward for saving a whole human child.

Unknowingly – much like the colonial French rewarding people for rat tails – they had provided motivation for bad behavior. The dog now realized that saving children was a path to beef, and it didn't have the moral fortitude to simply wait for them to fall in all by themselves.

A few days later, a second child was playing by the Seine when he fell in too. The same dog – though noticeably fuller of beef – jumped back into the river, saving a second child. Again, the dog was given some meat, reinforcing its hunch. 


The pattern of rescues, followed by meat, followed by rescues continued for a while. What's more, it was a suspicious number of kids to fall into the Seine over a brief timescale, let alone taking into account their proximity to one single dog.

It wasn't too long before the jig was up, and the New York Times ran a scandalous front-page story: "DOG A FAKE HERO" with the damning caption "pushes children into the Seine to rescue them and win beefsteaks".


According to the New York Times – and we'd still take it with a pinch of salt – "whenever he saw a playing child on the edge of the stream he promptly knocked it into the water".


The dog would then rescue the child, presumably before nodding at some loose beef the nearest adult happened to have on them. The dog had learned, like Pavlov's dogs had learned to salivate upon hearing a bell, to associate drowning children with a nice big slab of prime beef.


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