Tag: Mark Bekoff

The emotions of our most beloved animal friend: our dog.

Exploring the range of emotions felt and displayed by our dogs.

Like so many bloggers, I subscribe to the writings of many others. Indeed, it’s a rare day when I don’t read something that touches me, stirring up emotions across the whole range of feelings that we funny humans are capable of.

Such was the case with a recent essay published on Mother Nature Network. It was about dogs and whether they are capable of complex emotions. Better than that, MNN allow their essays to be republished elsewhere so long as they are fully and properly credited.

Thus, with great pleasure I republished the following essay written by Jaymi Heimbuch.

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Are dogs capable of complex emotions?

Exactly what emotions do dogs feel, and are they capable of all the same emotions as humans? (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)
Exactly what emotions do dogs feel, and are they capable of all the same emotions as humans? (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Joy, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness. These are the basic emotions dogs feel that are also easy enough for humans to identify. But what about more complex emotions?

Many dog owners are convinced their dogs feel guilty when they’re caught misbehaving. In the same way, many owners are sure their dogs feel pride at having a new toy or bone. But it gets tricky when you assign these sorts of emotions to a dog. These are definitely emotions felt by humans, but are they also felt by dogs?

(see footnote)

Why we question the presence of complex emotions is wrapped up in the way we get to those emotions. The American Psychological Association explains, “Embarrassment is what’s known as a self-conscious emotion. While basic emotions such as anger, surprise or fear tend to happen automatically, without much cognitive processing, the self-conscious emotions, including shame, guilt and pride, are more complex. They require self-reflection and self-evaluation.”

Essentially we’re comparing our behavior or situation to a social expectation. For instance, guilt comes when we reflect on the fact that we’ve violated a social rule. We need to be aware of the rule and what it means to break it. So, can dogs feel guilt? Well, exactly how self-reflective and self-evaluative are dogs?

Among humans, children begin to experience empathy and what are called secondary emotions when they are around 2 years old. Researchers estimate that the mental ability of a dog is roughly equal to that of an 18-month-old human. “This conclusion holds for most mental abilities as well as emotions,” says Stanley Coren in an article in Modern Dog Magazine. “Thus, we can look to the human research to see what we might expect of our dogs. Just like a two-year-old child, our dogs clearly have emotions, but many fewer kinds of emotions than found in adult humans.”

In other words, if 18-month-old children can’t yet experience these emotions, and dogs are roughly equal to them in cognitive and emotional ability, then dogs can’t feel these self-reflective emotions either. At least, that’s what researchers have concluded so far.

Is that guilt or fear?

This little puppy might feel guilty for chewing on clothes, or he could just be worried about getting in trouble. The two aren't the same emotion. (Photo: InBetweentheBlinks/Shutterstock)
This little puppy might feel guilty for chewing on clothes, or he could just be worried about getting in trouble. The two aren’t the same emotion. (Photo: InBetweentheBlinks/Shutterstock)

The evidence for primary emotions like love and happiness in dogs abounds, but empirical evidence for secondary emotions like jealousy and guilt is sparse. And this is partially because it’s difficult to create tests that provide clear-cut answers. When it comes to guilt, does a dog act guilty because she knows she did something wrong, or because she’s expecting a scolding? The same expression can come across as guilt or fear. How do we know which it is?

Scientific American explains it further:

“In wolves, it is thought that guilt-related behaviors serve to reinforce social bonds, as in primates, by reducing conflict and eliciting tolerance from other members of the social group. The same could be true of dogs, though their social groups would primarily include humans. The problem is that the display of the associated behaviors of guilt are not, themselves, evidence of the capacity to emotionally experience guilt… It may still be some time before we can know for certain whether dogs can experience guilt, or whether people can determine if a dog has violated a rule prior to finding concrete evidence of it.”

Guilt, and other secondary emotions, are complicated. That’s exactly why cognitive awareness and emotional capacity in dogs is still a topic under study. In fact, it’s an area that has grown significantly in recent years. We may discover that dogs have a more complex range of emotions than we’re aware of today.

Dogs are highly social animals, and social animals are required to navigate a range of emotions in themselves and those around them to maintain social bonds. It wasn’t so long ago that scientists thought that dogs (and other non-human animals) didn’t have any feelings at all. Perhaps our understanding of dog emotions is simply limited by the types of tests we’ve devised to understand their emotions. After all, we’re trying to detect a sophisticated emotional state in a species that doesn’t speak the same language.

There’s a lot we don’t know

Dogs experience a range of emotions, but researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what those emotions are. (Photo: Hysteria/Shutterstock)
Dogs experience a range of emotions, but researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what those emotions are. (Photo: Hysteria/Shutterstock)

Marc Bekoff makes the argument for leaving the possibility open. In an article in Psychology Today he writes, “[B]ecause it’s been claimed that other mammals with whom dogs share the same neural bases for emotions do experience guilt, pride, and shame and other complex emotions, there’s no reason why dogs cannot.”

Keeping the possibility open is more than just an emotional animal rights issue. There is a scientific basis for continuing the research. A recent study showed that the brains of dogs and humans function in a more similar way than we previously thought.

Scientific American reports that “dog brains have voice-sensitive regions and that these neurological areas resemble those of humans. Sharing similar locations in both species, they process voices and emotions of other individuals similarly. Both groups respond with greater neural activity when they listen to voices reflecting positive emotions such as laughing than to negative sounds that include crying or whining. Dogs and people, however, respond more strongly to the sounds made by their own species.”

Until recently, we had no idea of the similar ways human and dog brains process social information.

So do dogs feel shame, guilt and pride? Maybe. Possibly. It’s still controversial, but for now, there seems to be no harm in assuming they do unless proven otherwise.

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Footnote: At this point in the MNN article there was a link to a series of gorgeous photographs of dogs. If you dear readers can wait, then I will publish them this coming Sunday. If you can’t wait, then go here!

Animals make us human.

Animal and human happiness.

As I have mentioned in the past and undoubtedly will do so again in the future, one of the most wonderful aspects of this world of blogging is the way that connections are made. Just a few weeks ago, a connection was made between Learning from Dogs and Dog Leader Mysteries. DLM’s byline is: Saving dogs’ lives and dog lovers’ sanity. Dog Leader Mysteries is written by author Deborah Taylor-French.

Anyway, out of the exchanges that have taken place between Deborah and myself, came a reference to a post about animal happiness that was published on Deborah’s blog in October, 2013.  It is very interesting and I am delighted to be given permission to share it with you.

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Neuroscience key to animal happiness

…research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.

Animals Make Us Human : Creating the best life for Animals

by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

Water dogs having a blast in Spring Lake Park.
Water dogs having a blast in Spring Lake Park.

By Deborah Taylor-French

Those of us who live and/or work with animals know…

animals have emotions.

Temple Grandin has made the understanding, care and handling of farm animals her life’s work. I refer to her book Animals Make Us Human because not only has she studied farm animals, but she also loves and lives with pets. In her books, especial this one, she insists that we must understand how animals brains work, how they see, hear and smell every sensory detail in their surroundings.

Animals emotions drive their behavior.

To make a better life for our pets, for domestic and wild animals we must understand the main emotions that drive behavior. This will help us to turn on their positive emotions and avoid turning on FEAR, RAGE and GRIEF.

Example: Rabbits and horses are prey animals.

  • Never chase either rabbits or horses.
  • Teach your pet rabbit or horse to come to you.
  • Always reward them for recognizing their name and coming when called.
  • When you chase a prey animal, you make him or her fearful of you!

Emotions are the gifts of our ancestors. We have them and so do other animals. We must never forget this. When it comes to animal welfare we can always do better. Most of the time “good welfare” is not “good enough.”

The Emotional Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff.

Dogs Depend on us for freedom from fear and safety

  • Never tie up your dog unless it is in your company in a human training session.
  • A dog needs to feel he can flee to safety.
  • Be sensitive to your dog’s fear signals and show him you will protect and calm him.
  • Increase your dogs positive emotions by interesting, but not overstimulating activities.
  • Always stop training before your dog gets tired.

Dogs are the only animals that live with us inside of their flight zone.

Dogs depend on us for positive and playful lives

When you help increase an animal’s curiosity, you turn on his or her positive emotions of SEEKING and PLAY.

Example: Dogs love to play.

  • Find a time and place when both you and your dog seem relaxed.
  • Invite your dog to play by doing a play bow or picking up his favorite toy.
  • Use an excited and happy tone of voice to call your dog.
  • Run away.
  • When your dog chases you, stop.
  • Wait for your dog to run then chase.
  • Always stop before your dog seems fearful or overexcited.

Dogs love this game, which dog lovers know dogs play every chance they get.

Temple Grandin Website and Book Orders

Thank you for reading.

blogthechange

Please share for the sake of all animals, because as

Temple Grandin says,

“Animals make us human.”

Please visit and share Blog for the Change for Animals

Animals defy our tendency to define their lives and their limits.

For further information on brain research, emotions in animals and the primary-process emotional-affective networks of mammalian brains read US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health on the work of Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D. Affective neuroscience of the emotional BrainMind: evolutionary perspectives and implications for understanding depression.

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Follow that, as they say!

Back to dogs and play

A range of ideas that elevate our understanding of dogs.

Last Thursday, I wrote the opening to what became a two-part essay.  The essence of that first part was the conclusion by Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, that, “Clearly dogs and many other animals can truly teach us about traits such as trust, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.

You will recall that the reference to Marc Bekoff came from an article written by David Grimm (1) in The Washington Post.  Let me refer back to that article:

In the wild, coyotes ostracize pack members that don’t play by the rules. Something similar happens in dog parks: If three dogs are playing and one bites or tackles too hard, the other two are likely to give him the cold shoulder and stop playing with him, Bekoff says. Such behavior, he says, suggests that dogs are capable of morality, a mind-set once thought to be uniquely human.

Even morality hints at something deeper, however. To enforce moral conduct, dogs must be able to experience a spectrum of emotions, from joy to indignation, guilt to jealousy. They must also be able to read these emotions in others, distinguishing accident from intent, honesty from deceit. And indeed, recent studies by other scientists have shown evidence of these abilities (confirming what many dog owners already feel about their pets).

Scientists have found, for example, that dogs trained to shake hands with humans will stop shaking if they notice that they aren’t being rewarded for the trick although a nearby dog is — a sign, the researchers suggested, that dogs can sense inequity.

Other studies have revealed that dogs yawn when they see humans yawning and that they nuzzle and lick people who are crying; scientists consider both behaviors displays of empathy, a rarely documented trait in the animal kingdom. Dogs have even been shown to be pessimistic: When a group of canines in one study learned that a bowl placed on one side of the room contained a treat and a bowl on the other side contained nothing, some of the dogs just sat there when the empty bowl was placed in the center of the room; they figured it was empty and didn’t waste their time. These same dogs evinced what researchers said was a similar pessimistic attitude when their masters left for work: They were more likely to howl and tear up the couch when their owner disappeared, possibly because they didn’t believe their master would return.

Most, if not all, dog owners would be very familiar with many of the behavioural traits that Marc Bekoff covers.  Take this next aspect, for instance:

Bekoff’s recent work suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking — a so-called “theory of mind.”

Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.

From the above, it was but a short step, in web-search terms, to discover the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University.

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Duke Canine Cognition Center

The Duke Canine Cognition Center (DCCC) is dedicated to the study of dog psychology. Our goal is to understand the flexibility and limitations of dog cognition. In doing so, we gain a window into the mind of animals as well as the evolution of our own species. We can also apply our knowledge of dog cognition to improving programs in which dogs are bred and trained to help humans (i.e. service dogs for the disabled, etc.).

We study dog cognition by inviting dog owners living in the vicinity of Duke University (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) to volunteer their pet dog(s) to play fun problem solving games where they can win treats (food or toys). The Duke Canine Cognition Center has the highest acceptance rate and cheapest tuition at Duke! So join hundreds of others and sign up today so that your dog can help us gain an even better understanding of our very best friends.

Then from there, the discovery of Brian Hare:

brianhare_home

Brian Hare is the director of the above Duke Canine Cognition Center, the co-author of The Genius of Dogs, and co-founder of Dognition.

So will leave it there for today but all this clearly offers us much to browse and learn about our truly best friend!

Reference:

1. David Grimm is a deputy news editor at Science and the author of the new book “Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats and Dogs.

http://www.amazon.com/Citizen-Canine-Evolving-Relationship-Cats/dp/1610391330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400593725&sr=8-1&keywords=david+grimm