When considering what a dog is willing to woof down, you can’t help but wonder if they actually taste what they eat. It doesn’t seem to matter to a dog whether it’s their favorite CANIDAE meal, a bug or an ice cube. My dogs will eat everything with gusto as if it had been prepared by a top chef. My cats hunt flies, spiders and other small creatures, and occasionally an overlooked dust bunny. The senses of dogs and cats are far superior to ours, but do they have taste buds, and can they really taste what they eat?
Taste buds play an ingenious role in human and animal survival and are designed to help keep us alive. Without the ability to distinguish between certain tastes it would be difficult to know which foods are safe to eat and which ones to avoid. Something that tastes bad usually means it could be harmful to swallow, and a good taste would be an indication it is safe to consume. All vertebrates have taste buds on their tongues, but how many a species has depends on which tastes they need to be able to detect to stay safe. Humans have about 10,000 taste buds, whereas dogs only have around 1,700 and cats have approximately 470. Because herbivores, like cows for example, dine on a large variety of plants, more taste buds are needed to help them tell if a plant is toxic or beneficial for them to eat.
When you share your life with a dog and there are no other humans living in your house, your pet may become so accustomed to interacting with your gender that she develops a fear of the opposite sex. Not the sex opposite from her, but the sex opposite from you! This can become a serious issue. Since your dog has limited opportunities to interact with the other gender on a regular basis, they are strange and unusual to her. She may react badly towards them.
I’ve seen it from both sides. My cousin lives alone with his German shepherd mix, Leon. These two are inseparable; the dog goes everywhere with him. People often talk about the special bond my cousin and Leon have, and it is a beautiful thing to see. The other side of the coin, however, is that the dog is not friendly towards women. It’s so bad that he will snarl and show his teeth when a woman is anywhere near. He behaves differently towards men.
A neighbor friend and her roommate live with a tiny Chihuahua named Brutus. The two women and Brutus take long walks every afternoon. Whenever my husband and I happen upon them, Brutus allows me to pat him but he won’t let my husband within a 10 foot radius. The women say Brutus acts that way towards all men.
Like us, dogs use their voice to convey intentions and express how they are feeling. Barking is as natural to canines as talking is to us, and expecting a dog to never use his voice is an unreasonable expectation. However, that doesn’t mean you should allow him to bark nonstop. Never punish a dog for barking, and don’t yell at him because that will only escalate the barking. There are more effective ways to get your dog to stop barking excessively.
The first thing you need to do is understand why your dog is barking. A few weeks ago, I covered how to correct frustration, demand, and boredom barking. This article deals with correcting four more types of problem barking: alarm, excitement, territorial, and anxiety barking.
Sometimes what a dog perceives as danger isn’t, but to him it is a serious threat and his “Timmy’s in trouble” bark is meant to get your attention. Your dog thinks something isn’t right so he’s alerting you, his leader, to come investigate. Most of the time there’s nothing to be concerned about, but you need to go see why your dog is barking because he could be alerting you to a brewing problem, like smoke coming from the kitchen or someone prowling around outside.
We all know how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is. In fact, smell is a dog’s primary sense; they interpret the world predominately through their olfactory system while humans interpret the world predominately through our visual system. Even so, both humans and dogs use senses to understand what’s going on around them. But did you know that, just like humans, dogs rely on more than just their senses to figure things out? Dogs are experts at reading body language, and not just each other’s. In the same way that humans have learned to read canine body language, dogs can read human body language. Our movements, posture and even our glances tell our canine companions a lot about what we are thinking and feeling.
Have you ever glanced over at your dog’s leash? If your dog sees you look at his leash, what does he do? My dogs jump up and run to the door, ready to go on a walk. I used to think their reaction was based on the time of day, because we usually keep a pretty regular walk schedule. To rule that out, I looked at the leash random times and got the same reaction. Because I didn’t say the tell-tale “w” word, I knew they were not reacting to my verbal cue. And because it was at an unusual time, I knew they were not reacting to a specific time of day. No. They were reading my body language!
Social cognition is a popular field of study, and research into a dog’s ability to pick up on human behavior signals is thriving. It’s long been understood that most social mammals are adept at reading cues from members of their same species, but the study of social cognition recognizes that dogs are amazingly good at reading human body language. A dog’s social cognition crosses species type.
Dogs see the world from their own unique perspective and do things based on instinct. To canines, it’s perfectly natural to search the trash for an interesting tidbit, or chase the neighborhood cat that dares to enter their domain. Dogs instinctively know it’s wise to circle before lying down even though their bed is inside away from biting insects. Some of the things dogs do seem odd to us, though. Here are five strange behaviors of dogs and why they do them.
Kicks Leg When Scratched
Your dog is relaxing on his back and you scratch what you think is a “sweet spot” on his belly. He immediately responds by kicking his leg in the air. Some dogs react when their lower chest or upper area of the back leg is scratched. You didn’t really find a sweet spot, but you did hit a nerve and his rapid kicks are involuntary. It’s the same reaction we have when the doctor taps our knee with a rubber mallet to check our reflex. In fact, a vet may check a dog’s scratch reflex to determine if the dog is dealing with a neurological concern.
You can tell if your dog enjoys being scratched by watching his body language. If he’s relaxed and lying on his back with his tongue dangling from his opened mouth, he’s probably OK with it. But if his legs are stiff, his mouth is closed, his ears are flattened and he shows signs of wanting to move – he is likely saying “stop doing that.” Think about it this way – if your doctor kept hitting your knee over and over with his hammer to activate your reflex, would you enjoy it?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Some breeds, like hounds and herding dogs, were bred to vocalize when prey is sighted or when working with livestock. Barking is one way that canines communicate, but we don’t always understand what they are trying to say. Frustration barking, demand barking and boredom barking are three common issues that dog owners face. I’ll offer solutions for those barking problems in this post, and I’ll cover four additional types of barking problems in a follow-up post.
Any kind of barrier (window, fence, baby gate, etc.) that keeps a dog confined and restricts his movement can be extremely frustrating for some canines. In their eyes, not being able to chase a rabbit they see through the confines of a dog pen or a window isn’t right. Frustration barking is an excited, insistent bark. A stressed-out dog, or one confused about what you want him to do, can also bark to vocalize his frustration.
How to correct – Changing your dog’s behavior takes time, lots of patience, committed dedication, and plenty of his favorite CANIDAE treats. Yelling won’t stop barking and only increases the excitement of his voice. You have to physically get up and go to your dog, unless he’s a champ at coming when called – especially when distracted. If he understands the “watch me” or “look at me” commands, use a treat to get his attention. Once he’s distracted, engage him in some playtime to give the source of his frustration time to pass by.
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