Category Archives: dog research

Is Your Dog Always Excited to See You?

dog excited kizzzbethBy Linda Cole

One of the simple pleasures in life is the enthusiastic greeting I get from my dogs every time I walk through the door, even if it’s only been a few minutes. My dogs act like it’s been months since they last saw me, and each one has their own way of showing how much they missed me. According to a new study, science can explain why your dog greets you with excitement when he see you – no matter how long you’ve been gone.

There are two components that explain why your dog is always so happy to see you. The first one originated in the early years of domestication when the common wolf-like ancestors of dogs and wolves made a choice to begin interacting with our early ancestors. Friendlier and more social wolves sought out humans, evolving into dogs. The more antisocial wolves wanted nothing to do with us and stayed away. That decision is what makes dogs different from wolves, even though the two species share some common behaviors. The wolf we know today is essentially much different from their ancient ancestors.

Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, trained dogs to lie still inside an MRI machine. His research team wanted to see how the dog brain works to better understand our canine friends. From previous studies, he discovered their brain works in a similar way as ours. Berns found that dogs can recognize faces of humans and other dogs, and the region of the brain that lights up is the same area in our brains when we see someone familiar. He learned that canines recognize familiar scents and can distinguish between the smell of a human, another dog and familiar objects.
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Do Dogs Have a Perception of Time?

dogs tell time anna foxBy Linda Cole

The one thing my dog Keikei loves almost as much as her CANIDAE treats is when it’s time to go outside. She seems to get the exact time right every day. Sure, she could be picking up on my actions that indicate I’m getting ready to take the doggies outside. However, sometimes she is asleep in another room and appears just as I’m getting ready to move. Many dog owners who return home from work to find their pet waiting by the door or watching from a window believe that dogs can tell time. Skeptics would say this behavior is just an uncanny coincidence rather than proof that dogs have a perception of time. What do you think?

According to scientists, our ability to remember is one thing that sets us apart from other species. Our understanding of time is in the passing of seconds, minutes, hours and days. We have an episodic memory that gives us the ability to remember contextual information of past events. It records life experiences and specific events we can recall at different times in our lives. We can travel back in time as well as look forward to something in the future. Most people remember where they were on 9/11 or when JFK was assassinated. Star Wars fans remember the six movies from the past and the order they were released. We can remember good and bad things from childhood, and continue family holiday traditions based on our stored knowledge of past years. Our concept of time includes what, when and where something happened, and encompasses the past, present and future.
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Are Dogs Hardwired to Listen to Us?

dogs hardwired dan lentzBy Linda Cole

We express ourselves every day in different ways, especially through verbal communication. You can usually tell if someone close to you is happy, angry or sad by the sound of their voice. As it turns out, human and canine brains are very similar when it comes to understanding the components of human speech. According to a 2014 study, dogs are hardwired to listen to us in much the same way we are hardwired to listen to others.

It’s no easy task sometimes to get a dog’s attention, which leaves one to wonder if he even heard what you said – let alone understood your words. However, dogs are very capable of understanding human speech as well as picking up on the tonal complexity in speech. If your dog doesn’t listen to you, it’s not because he isn’t paying attention. He can differentiate between human speech that has meaningful words and sounds with only emotional inflections. Scientists have known for some time that dogs “get” how we say things, but little is actually known on whether canines understand what we say to them.

The human brain processes important verbal information in speech in the left hemisphere, but the characteristic parts of speech are processed in the right hemisphere – e.g., the speaker is male or female, someone familiar to you, and emotional cues. When we listen to someone speaking, we hear the meaning of words in the right ear and emotional cues in the left ear. Most of us have a left-right cross link in our auditory organs; in other words, the right ear hears meaningful speech and is linked to the left hemisphere of the brain while the left ear hears emotional cues and is linked to the right hemisphere.
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The Science Behind a Dog’s “Guilty Look”

guilty look iconoclastBy Linda Cole

Anthropomorphism is when we place human characteristics or behaviors on animals, plants, and inanimate objects. Dog owners sometimes use it to confirm the guilt of their pet after finding a torn up pillow or other signs of misbehaving. It’s obvious who the culprit is when there’s only one pet in the home. When there’s multiple pets, placing blame on the one with the “guilty look” could be indicting an innocent pup, which can damage your relationship with your dog. There is science that explains what a dog’s guilty look actually is.

In recent years, scientists have begun studying the complexity of the dog’s mind, how they view their world, and which emotions they experience. We know dogs feel fear, anxiety, grief, affection, suspicion and other emotions, but not necessarily in the same way we do. Guilt is an emotional response acknowledging wrongdoing, which is something dog owners assume their pet understands because of the “guilty look.” In reality, that look isn’t what it appears to be.
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Does Gazing Into Your Dog’s Eyes Facilitate Bonding?

dog gaze tonyBy Linda Cole

The close bond dog owners share with their pet is unique, and research has shown that both humans and canines benefit from positive interactions. Now a new study has provided scientists with some surprising findings about the power of a dog’s gaze, which also helps explain why the bond between humans and dogs is so tight.

The human/canine bond is a symbiotic relationship that benefits both species. In many households, dogs are considered treasured members of the family. Playing with, training, petting and grooming your pet helps create an unshakable bond. Researchers know we experience beneficial physiological and psychological changes in the body when interacting with dogs, and a recent study found that both humans and canines have a spike in oxytocin levels when looking into each other’s eyes.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone” and is linked to the emotional bond between mother and baby. It’s also what bonds other mammals that mate for life, such as wolves, swans, beavers and bald eagles. The hormone helps create a powerful social attachment of affection, and in the case of humans and dogs, it’s fueled by a gaze.

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Can Dogs Recognize Their Owner’s Face?

dogs recognize christopherBy Linda Cole

We know that our dogs can tell us apart from a stranger. They know our individual scent and the sound of our voice, but just how well do they know our face? Could a dog pick out the person he loves by appearance alone? According to a 2013 study, a dog can not only recognize his owner’s face among others, he can also recognize them in a picture.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland trained 23 pet dogs and eight kennel dogs to lie still in front of a TV screen as they watched a series of images while their eye movements were tracked. Each dog was tested individually. The dogs were shown images that included photos of familiar human faces and dogs, as well as faces of people and canines they had never met. The pictures on the screen alternated between upright and inverted.

Using eye-tracking technology, sensors were fitted just above the dog’s eyes to determine where he looked and how long his gaze was when watching each image. When a picture appeared, the first place each dog looked was in the area around the eyes, which indicated they understood the images were faces. Researchers found familiar faces and the eyes held each dog’s gaze longer than unfamiliar faces. All of the dogs gazed longer at faces of their own species, however, than any of the human faces including pictures of people they knew.

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