Because dogs are social animals, it’s not surprising how connected they are with the people they love. Most dogs are more than willing to protect us from any foe, and we rely on their extraordinary sense of smell and hearing in many ways. However, there are some amazing things dogs can sense about us. Just by paying attention, our dogs can figure out what’s on our mind.
Dogs Can Sense Sadness
Research on how dogs interpret our moods suggests that our canine friends may be capable of feeling empathy in their own unique way when it comes to knowing when you’re feeling sad. In a recent study, scientists found that dogs are more apt to approach someone crying in an effort to comfort them regardless of whether it was someone they knew or a stranger. Humming and talking didn’t garner the same behavior from the dogs in the study. They would try to console the crying person by licking their hands or face, and some took toys to the person to try and cheer them up.
Dogs Can Sense Anger
The “guilty look” on a dog’s face when he’s caught misbehaving isn’t what it seems. He’s just reacting to your angry words and body language. To help defuse a situation and calm you down, the guilty look is his way of saying “I don’t know why you’re upset, but I’m being submissive to help you feel better.” Dogs aren’t capable of feeling guilt, which is why it’s wrong to punish them for doing something they see as natural behavior.
One of our rescue dogs is skittish and fearful. We are always on the lookout for ways to help this dog relax and take it easy. We’ve done all kinds of behavioral work and tried multiple training techniques. The good news is that he seems to making progress. Even so, there is plenty of work that still needs to be done.
The other evening after he finished eating his favorite grain free dog food – CANIDAE PURE Elements with Lamb – he was lying on the sofa next to me and I began rubbing his ears. He snuggled closer and I began to feel all of the tension slowly leaving his body; it was if someone had stuck a tiny pin in a ball and the air was seeping out gradually. I know all the tricks for putting our cat into this state of relaxed euphoria, but I’d never been able to get this dog to fully let go until that moment. With a big grin on his goofy, loveable face, he fell into a happy trance.
It turns out that rubbing a dog’s ears is a natural sedative, almost like a tranquilizer.
The ears of a dog are one of three nerve centers on his body. The other nerve centers are between his toes and the center of his belly; all of these places are extremely sensitive to the touch. The benefit of knowing where these nerve centers are is that you know where to rub your dog to instigate relaxation. And it’s more than simple relaxation. When you stroke your dog’s ears, the sensation he feels goes further than just the ears themselves. The intense pleasure he feels extends deep into his body.
In the canine world, communication is through yips, growls, barks, and an expert ability to decipher body language. You may not realize your dog watches what you do during social interactions with other people, but just by observing how we treat each other, our canine friends can identify people who might be helpful. A recent study found that dogs can recognize someone who is kind-hearted and generous.
Generosity comes from a Latin word “generosus” which means “of noble birth.” The definition of generosity evolved in the 1600s to mean “a nobility of spirit” which was still associated with people born into the upper class, but it was used to define admirable qualities for an individual person rather than their family history. Generosity eventually evolved sometime in the 1700s to define someone who willingly gives their time, money and possessions to others. Today, we view someone who shows generosity to others as being kind-hearted and helpful – a quality dogs can also understand and recognize.
Social eavesdropping is something we all engage in. It might be a conversation heard between two people standing behind you in a line, or an intentional act of listening to a private conversation. People watching is also a form of eavesdropping. We use our people watching skills to make a judgment call, such as deciding which person in a group would be more helpful and friendly.
When you put on a CD or turn on the radio, you may notice that your dog responds to the sound of the music, but they may be responding more to each individual piece than one style of music.
Every dog is an individual, much like every human. Depending on the dog, they may respond differently to different kinds of music. Many people choose to leave the radio on for their dog while they are away from home, and pick what they think will be soothing for their dog. Even within particular types of music though, the styles and sounds can be very different. Classical music, for example, can range from soothing and calming to bold and brassy loud. It isn’t so much the style or genre of music, but the tones of individual pieces that may affect how your dog reacts to the sounds she is hearing.
Music that has short, repetitive notes is more stimulating than music with drawn out notes, which is more likely to be calming. The tempo or speed may also affect your dog. Music that is close to their breathing rate or heartbeat is more calming. Music that is more frenetic is more likely to stimulate them. The volume matters too.
If you want to play soothing music for your dog, try recording your own compilation of calming musical pieces, not just a random radio station that might play music with a wide range of tempo, volume and style. Observe how your dog reacts to it.
Most dog owners view their pets as important and valued members of their family, and we’d never do something intentionally that would hurt our dog’s spirit. We may not always understand why dogs behave in certain ways, but dogs don’t understand some of the things we do either. How we interact with a dog matters, and sometimes our actions can unintentionally hurt his spirit.
Taking away food or toys to establish leadership
Food aggression and guarding toys can be a problem that may result in an aggressive reaction towards you, another person or pet. Addressing bad behavior by taking away his CANIDAE food or toys while your dog is still eating or playing won’t change his behavior, and can actually make it worse. He doesn’t have any idea why you “stole” his supper or toy. If it’s repeated on a regular basis, from your dog’s point of view he has a good reason why he needs to be on guard. It doesn’t establish you as the leader, and you risk losing your dog’s trust. To him you’re being disrespectful.
There’s no reason why he should object to you being near his food or toys if he sees you as his leader. You have to earn his respect through training, commitment, patience and positive reinforcement. Teaching your dog what you will and won’t allow gives him boundaries. You can unintentionally cause frustration and stress if you constantly remove his food or toys just to show him you can. If your dog shows unwanted behavior you don’t know how to correct, talk to your vet or a certified animal behaviorist. Resource guarding can be corrected without stressing out your pet.
People seem to make the same dog training mistakes over and over, me included. It’s easy to get into a rut and continue doing what you’ve been doing. For the best results, however, it’s good to take a step back. Every once in a while, it’s important to reconsider how you’ve been training your dog and evaluate if things are progressing the way you hoped they would.
To that end, I’ve listed the most common training mistakes dog owners make—along with some easy adjustments—so you and Rover will have a clear and easy line of communication open. This list is not in any particular order. You may need to brush up on some or all of these. I’ll refrain from telling you how many I need to brush up on but I will say this, I need to take my own advice in a big way on some of these!
Dogs understand consistency, and if you vary your approach too often, your dog’s ability to learn will be compromised. For example, if you are tolerant with a stubborn dog one day but become impatient with him the next, he won’t understand you. Over time, inconsistency can damage your dog’s trust and confidence in you. Establish specific training methods and consistent expectations and stay the course.
A consistent timeframe is also helpful. Be careful not to let the training session go on too long or your dog will become disinterested. Likewise, make sure the sessions are not so short that the dog doesn’t understand what you are asking of him. Learn the length of time that works best for your dog and stick to it.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.