When it comes to dogs and cats, I come down solidly on the dog side. I like the fact that they actually seem to like us, and not just when it’s time to get fed. I enjoy the companionship and when my husband isn’t home I like knowing that if an ax murderer is hiding in my house, Lexie will at least bark. I don’t kid myself that there will be any doggy heroics…I’ll still get slaughtered but at least I’ll be forewarned. And I’m pretty sure she’d get in a good bite or two first. That means something, right?
I’ve told my husband for years that he needs to learn to differentiate between her barks, but he has shown no interest in learning to speak dog. In the evening she’ll bark and he’ll remind me that it’s my turn to let her out. I don’t move. “That’s not an ‘I want to go outside bark’”, I inform him. “That’s an ‘I want a treat bark’, and she’s already had one treat this evening.’ He thinks I’m just shirking but when he goes out to the kitchen, guess what? She’s sitting by the treat cupboard. I’m telling you, dogs have a language if we just take the time to learn it.
Here’s a picture of Lexie, my hideously expensive and hilariously lazy Polish Lowland Sheepdog. This was taken a couple of years ago and totally looked posed. But I just snapped it when she was already lying in front of the tree, stuffed, because she’d just finished eating the last of the candy canes off it, wrappers and all.
I always told myself she had a rather sheepish (ha) look on her face. Caught red-pawed, so-to-speak. But according to behaviorist Stanley Coren’s “What is Your Dog Thinking?” article, dogs can’t feel guilt, much less sheepishness.
Coren’s article purports to be ‘a psychological guide to your dog’s dreams, emotions and interests.’ And according to him, dogs are capable of feeling some emotions, because they have the same brain structures and hormones that produce emotions in people, and undergo the same chemical changes we do in emotional states. They even produce the chemical that is affiliated with love and affection in humans. We always knew those wet sloppy kisses meant they loved us, right?
But Coren cautions that a doggy mind is commensurate with that of a 2 1/2 year old human, and since toddlers aren’t capable of the more complex emotions neither are our canine friends. So, while a dog can experience joy, disgust, fear, anger, excitement, distress and yes, even love, they aren’t capable of feeling guilt, contempt, pride and shame.
Yes, hard to believe, isn’t it? If you have a dog you have undoubtedly come home to a mess on the carpet at some point and fixed the pet with a stern look. “What’d you do???” And the furry poop-machine refuses to meet your eye and slinks away to a quiet corner until the hoopla is over. If that’s not guilt, what is it?
According to the article’s author, that’s fear of punishment. The dog has learned to equate the mess to getting in big doggy trouble and knows it just might be in for it.
Other fun facts: small dogs dream more than large dogs do and if they look at you with slightly opened jaws to reveal the tongue lapping over his front teeth, it’s actually smiling at you. The mouth will close when it feels stress or anxiety.
And get this: Dogs are capable of laughing and often do when they are playing! It begins with the smile but also includes a sound that is much like panting. If you learn to produce dog laughter correctly, it’ll make your dog sit up, wag its tail and laugh with you.
Just in case you have a desire to acquire this talent, I’ve included a video on how to laugh like a dog. You’re welcome in advance <g>
So are you a dog person? Do you have a story about your beloved canine? Or do you gravitate to other types of pets?