Over the past 10 years, we have learned more about dogs than in the previous century – but much of what scientists have known for a long time is still a secret for ordinary dog owners. In this article, we have collected 10 of the most interesting facts about the thinking of our four-legged friends, supported by the results of scientific observation and research.
1. Dogs don’t feel guilty
Everyone is familiar with the situation: after the dog has done something “bad” and noticed that the owner is dissatisfied with this act, she begins to show with all her appearance that she is “ashamed” – presses her ears and tail, turns her head away, looks away and looks confused. If a person behaves in this way, we unambiguously read it as a manifestation of a sense of guilt and an awareness of the wrongness of our actions. It is tempting to interpret the behavior of a dog in the same way, but in its language, it means “Let’s not quarrel!”, “Look how small and defenseless I am!”. With her behavior, she tries to calm the angry owner and prevent the development of a conflict, pets use the same tactics when faced with the aggression of other animals. Dogs do not feel guilty because their understanding of what is “good” and what is “bad” is different from ours. In order for the dog to learn to understand what is acceptable and right for the owner, it must be taught this, and not shamed and punished.
2. Dogs need impressions
For a dog’s life to be full and harmonious, it needs a lot of impressions: olfactory, visual, gustatory, tactile and mental. This is necessary for all dogs, regardless of age, breed and size. Thanks to the balance of mental and physical exertion, calm and joyful interaction with the owner, a rich, but not overloaded with stimuli environment, the puppy will develop correctly, and the behavior of an adult dog will be pleasant and predictable – it will not start looking for new experiences by itself, running away for a walk, picking up edible and inedible on the street and destroy the house. Responsible breeders of purebred dogs always work with puppies, as soon as they become interested in the world around them, gradually, even before moving to the family, introducing new smells, objects and surfaces into their lives. This helps the animal to adapt faster and feel more confident, which will affect its entire future life.
3. Dogs know how to make friends
An important factor affecting the quality of life of a dog is the ability to contact with relatives. There can be different relationships between animals – from “stay away from me” and “hello-bye” to a real strong friendship. The parameters by which they choose their friends remains a mystery to us, this is not affected by size, age and breed. Dogs living together will not always feel comfortable together – living in the same family does not guarantee a good relationship. Friendship between dogs means that they enjoy spending time together, seek out each other on walks (sometimes they even have meeting places, and, having learned the schedule of walks, do not want to leave it until they wait for a friend), trust, share toys and join conflict situations.
4. Dogs are superstitious
Dogs are simply obsessed with signs: they know how to establish a connection between events and their consequences and remember whole chains of symbols preceding some action (for example, a walk or the return of the owner). Their causal relationships are built differently – for example, it has been experimentally proven that they do not understand how gravity or other hidden forces that are obvious to human’s work. But they are able to achieve their goal, fixing the slightest correlations that may be of interest to them (or, on the contrary, are fraught with danger), and use the trial-and-error method. Often, owners attribute fantastic properties to their pets: the ability to read minds, feel the owner’s return home, or the ability to count. But in fact, dogs are perfectly able to observe, remember and, based on this, predict. Therefore, the best thing that can be done for their well-being and psychological comfort is to try to create the most predictable world, including a constant daily routine, the same owner’s reactions to certain events and daily small rituals.
5. Dogs are incapable of revenge
The fact that humans attribute vindictiveness to dogs is one of the biggest problems with dogs. Of course, the credibility of the creature who lovingly tears the chosen new wallpaper from the wall without any hesitation can be undermined. A person experiences disappointment, resentment and annoyance when a beloved pet spoils things, and begins to see an evil intent in this – it seems that the dog planned everything on purpose, in order, for example, to take revenge for refusing to play. In fact, the reality is more prosaic: bad behavior is often explained by boredom, fear of loneliness and the fact that the animal does not realize the value of wallpaper. For him, your sneakers or headphones are an interesting educational game that the world has to offer. You can solve this problem without a complex psychological confrontation: by hiding things that are dear to you, and offering your pet a legal occupation so that it can occupy your mind while you are busy or absent. In the case of coping with the needs of the house, the problem often lies in health, young age, or too few walks.
6. Dogs can handle anxiety on their own
Dogs have a wonderful built-in ability to calm themselves and others in times of crisis or arousal. To relax and collect their thoughts, they need to gnaw, chew or tear something. During the work of the jaws, the endings of the vagus nerve are stimulated, when activated, a chemical is released, which is a natural sedative. If the dog sees that someone from her environment is anxious or a conflict is brewing, she may begin to yawn or try to separate the overexcited sides with her body, sticking between them. Often, owners mistake this behavior for jealousy, but in fact, the dog can mistake any closeness for a quarrel. Even if someone is just trying to hug, it is his duty to prevent it.
7. It is important for dogs to feel safe
The need for safety is one of the basic requirements for a dog. Her dissatisfaction leads to behavioral problems: the pet becomes aggressive, as he has to defend himself, anxious, withdrawn, lack of initiative, his cognitive abilities decrease. The study of the pulse of dogs in different situations showed that they begin to worry, even if they are approached in a straight line with a brisk pace (for them it is considered polite to approach in a large arc) – what can we say about more serious stress. A relationship of trust with the most important social partner (the owner and his family) plays a critical role in creating a sense of security.
8. Dogs are empathic
Dogs are able not only to build complex relationships, but also to share the feelings of others, to show empathy. Dogs are especially sensitive to pain or fright of their relatives – when in their presence others are rudely treated, pulled or punished, they can run away. Among all animals, dogs are absolute champions in understanding not only body language, but also human emotions. Everyone knows the phrase “dogs feel fear”: in fact, their sensitive nose is able to catch adrenaline, which is produced by the human body.
9. If dogs growl, it’s not bad.
In addition to the language of movements, dogs use different sounds during communication: bark, whine, howl, hum, puff, snort and growl. If we can interpret other sounds more or less correctly, then difficulties arise with the latter. Growling scares people, many react aggressively to this method of communication, scold and punish the pet, thinking that this is how they show who is in charge here. But 20 years ago, scientists around the world came to the conclusion that the relationship between a dog and a person is not a hierarchical ladder, where everyone is trying to take a higher place.
When the dog growls, he reports that the situation that has arisen is unpleasant for him, and does not show rudeness. He asks to increase the distance or not to encroach on his toys or place. Also, these sounds can indicate that the pet has problems: it may feel vulnerable, insecure, or in pain.
10. Dogs and humans are alike, but very different
We are physiologically similar in many ways (dogs also feel the taste of food, pain, heat and cold), we seem to perceive the world around us, but at the same time we strongly disagree on the issue of values. We need to remember this and be sympathetic to the behavior typical of their species. To avoid misinterpretations and blunders, it is necessary to study the dogs, observe them with an open mind and try to understand their needs and intentions. Carefully and carefully building relationships, providing protection and respecting the dog’s boundaries is the owner’s responsibility.