Satisfaction is that good feeling you get after finding a solution to a difficult problem. We all have “eureka moments” when all of the pieces fall into place, allowing us to finally figure something out. According to new research, dogs also have eureka moments. Your dog’s favorite treat is the “paycheck” that canines prize – along with the opportunity to earn it. The treat is the motivating factor, but working for it is just as important to canines. It seems that humans are not the only species to get satisfaction and pleasure from completing a challenging task.
Researchers in Sweden tested 12 Beagles paired up into six groups. Six different pieces of equipment were introduced to the dogs. When used correctly, each piece made a distinctive noise to indicate when the task was completed. An example of equipment used included playing a key on a toy piano, pressing a paddle lever that rang a bell, and pushing a plastic box off a stack that made a noise when it hit the floor. In each pair of dogs, one was an experimental dog and the other one was a control dog.
After all 12 dogs were trained, they were taken to a testing area where the equipment was set up. At the entrance was a holding area where each dog waited to perform their specific task. An assistant led him to the starting arena, then turned their back and gave no interaction or instructions to the dog.
If you look at the world from a dog’s point of view, their antics begin to make more sense. Dogs are loyal to levels that are often amazing. They are also anxious to be involved and helpful. So, try to be more flexible and open minded in your thinking when you try to figure out their behavior. According to them, they are just trying to help.
Dogs are great little vacuum cleaners. They are always eager to clean up any bit of spilled food and will sit right under your feet during meal time to vacuum up any dropped bits. They particularly love outdoor eating at a picnic or barbecue. They help keep the ants away by getting to the spilled food first.
Dogs love babies in high chairs who toss food around. That makes them feel extra helpful providing both a child care and clean up service simultaneously. If you spill something with liquid, sauce or cream, dogs are instant mops, lapping up the spill before you even have a chance to clean it up. They often provide this bonus service with a wagging tail.
Often forward thinkers, very eager dogs will quietly walk under the table and put their head on your lap or feet, to catch the food before it reaches the ground. If you happen to put your hand down with something in it and that bit of food falls directly into their mouth, that is even better.
When you are all done eating, they will happily lick off any dirty plates they can reach when you are busy doing something else. They just think you forgot to finish cleaning up, and are happy to chip in and cut down on your work.
Your dog will gladly help you clean out the open bag of CANIDAE Pure Heaven Biscuits you mistakenly left sitting on the coffee table. They want to prevent it from falling on the floor and making a mess that you will have to clean up later.
Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1904 for his work on the digestive system of mammals. He is famous for his revelation in classical conditioning. Pavlov discovered by accident that the dogs in his lab had learned to associate food with his lab assistants. They would salivate when any of the assistants entered the room whether they had food or not. It was a response to a stimuli and something the dogs learned on their own. Classical conditioning was the first step in beginning to understand how dogs think.
From the beginning of the 1900s up to the 1960s, scientists focused on dog behavior, but they lost interest and didn’t resume studying canines until the beginning of the 21st century. For the last 14 years, scientists have found a renewed interest in canine research to better understand a dog’s body language – including subtle signs they use, how they think, how they learn, the emotions they feel, how they view their world, and what they like. As we learn more about why dogs behave in certain ways, we have a better understanding of the canine mind and what dogs think about.
Of course, the answer to the question of what dogs think about is as complex as it is in determining what humans think about. We don’t have the ability to get inside the mind of another person to understand precisely what’s going on in their mind, nor can you really understand what your dog is thinking about when he’s staring at you. I know from personal experience how good some dogs are at problem solving, especially if they are trying to figure out a way to escape from their enclosure or steal food behind your back.
“Object permanence” is a term created by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. It’s the ability to understand that an object continues to exist even if it disappears. It may be gone from view, but we know it still exits even though we can’t see, touch, smell or hear it. This concept is an important development of awareness that human babies learn at around 18-24 months.
Researchers have discovered that dogs also understand the concept of object permanence, and it occurs earlier in canines than it does in humans. Puppies can understand the concept as early as 5 weeks. It’s easiest to see when you watch how dogs react to magic tricks.
Object permanence is not an ability that humans or dogs are born with. It’s a learned perception of awareness that comes from processing the existence of a stimulus while it is present. One summer a chipmunk set up an underground home inside my dog pen. I wasn’t aware of it, but noticed that my dog, Dozer, kept nosing around in one corner of the pen. It was obvious a smell had his interest, but he acted more curious than anything else. That is, until he caught sight of the chipmunk scurrying into his hole. Once he saw the critter disappear into the hole, his terrier heritage kicked in. Even though he couldn’t see the chipmunk, he knew it was in that hole. I’m sure it was Dozer’s persistent digging that caused the chipmunk to move his home to a safer location.
Most people who share their lives with dogs know what I mean when I say “that guilty look.” It’s the look your pet takes on when you come home to a tipped over kitchen garbage can, with the inedible remains of last night’s dinner scattered all over the floor.
When you arrive, your dog will likely greet you at the door with his head hanging low, his ears pinned back, and his eyes wide open, looking up at you. His tail may be low and wagging slowly or tucked under his behind. He may even be crouching slightly. This posture is different from his usual enthusiastic, jovial greeting that involves slobbery kisses from him and CANIDAE Pure Heaven Biscuits from you. You know, just by looking at your dog, that he feels guilty for digging through the trash, even though you know you should have wrapped up those chicken bones before throwing them into the garbage can.
Well, here’s a news flash: “that guilty look” is not what you think it is. In fact, your dog does not know he’s done anything wrong, especially if you didn’t catch him in the act, so as far as he’s concerned he doesn’t have anything to feel guilty about. And it’s time to clear up another common assumption people mistakenly make about dog behavior: dogs never do anything bad to “get back” at their owner. Your dog did not dig through the garbage because he was mad at you for leaving him at home.
The best way to create behavioral problems is to keep an animal caged up inside a home or at a zoo with nothing exciting to occupy their time. Environmental enrichment grew from a need to give zoo animals a more interesting and stimulating place to live that would improve their mental attitude as well as their physical wellbeing. It’s a concept that can easily be used to benefit bored dogs and cats.
A regular routine is important for pets. They like knowing “what’s next.” However, adding different things into the mix periodically gives them something new to look forward to. We take vacations, go to the movies, entertain guests, read, listen to music, and find other activities to break up our normal routine. While many dog owners include their pet on getaways where dogs are allowed, cats are usually left at home. Enriching your pet’s environment is not that difficult to do, and well worth the time and effort when your pet is stimulated by new discoveries. Even dogs and cats like to do something different once in awhile.
I ran across a video of a dog listening to his owner playing a guitar. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth and he was grinning as he listened. But he was also bobbing his head to the music. As soon as the music stopped, the dog closed his mouth, stopped moving his head, and gave a look that said, “Why did you stop?” As soon as his owner began strumming, the dog bobbed his head and grinned to show his appreciation. Most pets enjoy listening to music, as long as it isn’t too loud. Some dogs and cats like to listen to the radio, which can enrich their environment.
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.