Pets Have Feelings Too!

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To understand what dogs feel, we must turn to research that was done to explore the emotions of humans. Not all people have the full range of all possible emotions. In fact, at some points in your life, you did not have the full complement of emotions that you feel and express today. Research shows that infants and young children have a more limited range of emotions, but over time the child's emotions begin to differentiate and they come to be able to experience different and more complex emotional states.


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This data is important to our understanding of the emotional lives of dogs because researchers have come to believe that the mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to that of a human who is 2- to 2-and-a-half-years of age. This conclusion holds for most mental abilities, including emotions. Thus we can look to the human research to see what we might expect of our dogs.

Like a young child, dogs will clearly have emotions, but many fewer kinds of emotions than we find in adults.

Emotion in animals

At birth, a human infant only has an emotion that we might call excitement. This indicates how aroused he is, ranging from calm up to a state of frenzy. In the next couple of months, disgust, fear , and anger , become detectable in the infant. Joy often does not appear until the infant is nearly six months of age and it is followed by the emergence of shyness or suspicion.

Shame and pride take more than three years to appear, while guilt appears around six months after these.

Pets Have Feelings Too!: Understanding Your Pet's Physical, Emotional & Spiritual Needs

A child must be nearly four years of age before it feels contempt. This developmental sequence is the golden key to understanding the emotions of dogs. Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans do, and have all of the emotional range that they will ever achieve by the time they are four to six months of age depending on the rate of maturing in their breed. However, we know that the assortment of emotions available to the dog will not exceed that which is available to a human who is 2- to 2-and-a-half-years old.

This means that a dog will have all of the basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and even love. However, based on current research it seems likely that your dog will not have those more complex emotions like guilt, pride, and shame. Many people might argue that they have seen evidence that indicates their dog is capable of experiencing guilt. The usual situation is when you come home and your dog starts slinking around and showing discomfort, and you then find that he or she has left a smelly brown deposit on your kitchen floor.

It is natural to conclude that the dog was acting in a way that shows that it is feeling guilty about the transgression. However this is not guilt, but simply the more basic emotion of fear. The dog has learned that when you appear and his droppings are visible on the floor, bad things happen to him. What you see is his fear of punishment , he will never feel guilt.

So what does this mean for those of us who live with, and interact with dogs? The good news is that you can feel free to dress your dog in that silly costume for a party. He will not feel shame, regardless of how ridiculous he looks.

He will also not feel pride at winning a prize at a dog show or an obedience competition. However your dog can still feel love for you, and contentment when you are around. Aren't these the emotions we truly value? May not be reprinted or reposted without permission. Great article.

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I am now wondering about an amusing dog behaviour that I've observed and that some other dog owners have also confirmed observing. However, it does suggest a more complex emotion than allowed by the scale. The behaviour is this: In Novice obedience there is a sit-stay and down-stay exercise, during which all the dogs are in a row at one end of the ring doing the exercise and the owners are in a row at the other end of the ring, opposite their dog, and usually either praying or glaring at the dog with the unspoken promise that said dog will become sushi if he or she moves a paw.

Several times when doing this exercise, the dog next to my dog would break and move. When that happened, my dog would look at that dog with what appeared to be a prissy 'that's not how you do it' expression and sit up a little straighter or lift her head a little higher if in a down-stay.

Dogs can be trained to sit and stay in an MRI.

For the record, I have Shelties and the people who've also seen this behaviour have Shelties - but I suspect that just means my sampling has been limited, not that it is necessarily unique to this breed. I'd describe this as contempt or pride but those emotions are not allowed on the scale.


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So what would it be? They give German Shepherds their 'butter wouldn;t melt in my mouth stare' and then get upset when the German Shepherd lunges at them.

Animals have feelings too - Try Not To Cry Challenge

But of course maybe this is all no more than a reflection of the sort of people who own Shelties and German Sepherds This is my fourth dog but I never understood the meaning of being the pack leader to help me with my training. Saroo, our 4 month old chocolate labrador is quite calm thanks to the five golden rules I learned about on that website. We are implementing them into our daily routine and I definitely recommend Doggy Dan's online training program. As a dog owner, you should make a commitment for a better relationship with your doggy friend and make sure your dog has the best possible training I am truly looking forward to all the things I know I can learn about dog training through that program.

Dogs deserve our love and respect for all the warmth and happiness they bring to our lives. I went ahead and just signed up for the six month special since I just got my 8-week old puppy my first experience with a puppy and feel I can benefit from an extended membership. I have already seen results and my dog is definitely taking notice to the training. This is a great resource for all the dog owners out there :. Owned by sheltie, this is an interesting observation! Makes me wonder though if sometimes we are just interpreting things our way.

We assume our dogs are sitting straighter or lifting their head higher because of some complex emotion, when in reality the dogs may be just lowering their head and moving out of position a bit so to watch the other dog break his stay, and then they just return to their normal position or lift their head just to look at the reaction of the dog owner across from them.

In the medical field there's a saying "when you hear the noise of hooves, think horses and not zebras" meaning that we should first interpret things looking at the most simple explanation rather than attributing complex explanations.

Just my two cents, however, who knows, research is expanding on dogs so one day we may actually find they have superior cognitive abilities than thought. Many studies have already dispelled many things we thought we knew for years, so wouldn't be surprised if there is actually something more sophisticated going on here!

Hi, I would guess that your dog and other Shelties very clever dogs that are used to understand and observe their owners know that the behaviour of the other dog is going to cause a problem. Just a guess Thank you for your thoughts. That would certainly cover the reaction within the allowable emotions for the dog - and is also a good assessment of Sheltie character. We all know dogs can anticipate the outcome of certain behaviours, so it isn't much of a stretch for a dog to be able to anticipate the outcome of another dog's mis behaviour.

Thanks, Karin. And "contempt" is a reaction to people who have broken the social mores of your own social group. These poor people must LEARN to intentionally show these social behaviours if they want to be accepted in polite society You're right, I'm an aspie and I rarely feel shame, pride or contempt My equivalent of shame is either regret when I did something wrong that I know why it's wrong or fear of rejection.

How dogs feel

I often don't feel pride when others tell me I should be, I'm happy that I'm good at certain things, or that I managed to overcome something and grow from it, but I wouldn't call it pride And contempt Well I've felt disgust, anger, frustration and annoyance, and that's sorta close I guess, but I'm not sure that's it I agree.

This article is ridiculous. It is humans that lack certain stages of emotions. Dogs are loyal, most people are not. They are contempt. My dog goes potty in the house every time my boyfriend is over.

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One time he did it right infront of me because he was so upset at me and jealous. If humans really had all of these emotions and aquired four more negative traits, then why do we need dogs so bad? We learn from them. We learn what real love is. We learn what loyalty is.