Category Archives: dog research

New Study Says Dogs Are Capable of Imitating Us

By Linda Cole

One nagging question dog owners have is “Why is my pet always staring at me?” Dog experts may have cracked the mystery to that question. According to a new study, dogs watch what we do, remember an action and imitate it with their own interpretation of what they saw us do.

Our long relationship with dogs has given them plenty of time to study us. They pay attention and can learn through observation. To prove this concept, researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest tested dogs to see if they could learn by watching, remember what they saw and then repeat an action on command. According to the scientists, the study shows that dogs can do those things, and provides evidence for the cognitive ability of our canine friends.

Researchers tested eight adult pet dogs ranging in age from 2 to 10 years. The dogs were all female of different breeds, plus one mixed breed. They began with a preliminary test to prepare the dogs for the actual test. Taking turns, each owner had their dog stay and gave the command “Do as I do.” While the dog watched, her owner walked around a traffic cone, rang a bell hanging from a bar, or stuck their head in a bucket on the ground. Returning to the dog, the person waited 5 seconds, then gave the command, “Do it,” and waited for the dog to copy what her owner had done.

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Do Pets See Us As Their Family?

By Linda Cole

When we accept the role of caring for a pet, we have the responsibility of providing for their needs. Many pet owners view their dog or cat as a valued member of their family, lovingly referring to them as their furry kids. I’m sure pets have no concept of what “family” or “parent” means, but in their eyes, our role is one of provider, protector and educator, which are the chief duties of a parent, even in the animal world.

As responsible pet owners, most of us worry about our pets when they’re home alone. We buy winter coats and boots to keep our dogs warm, provide pets with their own beds, give them toys and puzzle games, make sure they have a high quality food like CANIDAE, and include them in family activities. We share a bond – an emotional bond similar to that of parent and child.

Lisa Horn and a team of researchers conducted a study at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, to see how dogs reacted to their owners. According to the study, the way dogs interact with their owners is much the same as children interacting with their parents. Canines have done an amazing job of adapting to us over the centuries, and from a dog’s point of view, we are social partners, replacing other animals of their own species. If you’ve always felt your bond with your dog is special, you’re right. Dogs have a deep connection with owners they share a bond with, similar to the connection parents have with their young children.
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New Study Links Dog Yawning to Empathy

By Linda Cole

Scientists have long been interested in doing studies about our canine friends. Recent studies have explored how the canine mind works and how important body language is to them. This new research has found that dogs, like humans, will often yawn when they see someone else yawning. Researchers also believe yawning is one way that dogs show us empathy.

Empathy is defined as the ability to identify with the feelings, attitudes or thoughts of someone else. Feeling another person’s pain is one of the requirements used to describe sentient beings. Many scientists have come to the conclusion that there are some non-human species, especially mammals and birds, that do have an awareness of self. Of course, people who have a strong bond with their pet have known this all along. Our understanding of canines continues to open our minds and hearts to the unique relationship we share with them.

The empathy of dogs may not be as refined as ours, but when you see the compassion of a mother dog nursing an orphaned squirrel or other wild animal alongside her pups, or a dog who refuses to leave his injured four-legged or two-legged, friend, their actions show a concern for others. Empathy isn’t something that can be taught. It’s what causes us to laugh when someone else laughs, or cry when we watch a love story on TV or see something bad happening to someone. Anyone who has ever rescued a dog or cat from a bad situation on the street did so because of empathy.

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Can Dogs and Cats Cry?

By Julia Williams

Have you ever seen your pet cry? And by “cry,” I mean actual tears from their eyes as an emotional response. Most people would say no; the general consensus is that animals lack the capacity for such a thing. We know that animals can “tear up” as a result of allergies, dust, upper respiratory infections, pollutants and such, but crying as an emotional response is believed impossible by most.

I don’t really like that word “impossible,” though. It would imply that we humans think we know everything there is to know about the emotional lives of animals. But how can we? Unless we are a dog, we can’t know what is in a dog’s mind or heart. We can form an opinion based on science and personal experience, but I think it would be arrogant for any human to say they know with certainty what emotions a dog or cat is capable of feeling.

Many scientists definitely have their own rigid thinking about the emotional capacity of animals. They base their opinion on carefully controlled research rather than the one-on-one bonding that takes place between people and their beloved pets. But here’s the thing:  a recent study proved that people could tell what emotion a dog was experiencing by looking at photographs of the dog’s face. The photos were taken after introducing stimuli designed to elicit a specific reaction from the dog.

Happiness was correctly identified by 88% of the study participants; anger was correctly identified by 70%. So if we can tell by a dog’s face whether he is happy, angry, sad, surprised or afraid, is it farfetched to believe we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of the emotional capacity of animals? I don’t think so.

Jeffrey Masson, author of the bestselling book When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, believes that animals do lead complex emotional lives. To support his theory, Masson found hundreds of anecdotes from the published works and field studies of noted behaviorists, including Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Cynthia Moss.

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Why Did Dogs Become Our Best Friends?

By Linda Cole

No one really knows exactly how dogs were domesticated, although there is evidence pointing towards a mutual benefit for both man and canine. “Why” dogs became our best friend has been more elusive. However, research into dog behavior has been giving scientists a better understanding of the reasons.

Scientific understanding of how dogs came to live with humans has led researchers to conclude there were most likely three females, referred to as the “Eves” in the early years of domestication. In 2004, scientists took 85 dog breeds and traced their genetic pattern. They consider 14 of the 85 to be ancient breeds, and seven of the 14 are classified as having the oldest genetic footprint. However, even the ancient breeds can only be traced back to around 2,000 years or so, which is far from the time when dogs were first domesticated.

The seven ancient breeds are from Alaska (the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute), China (the Chow Chow and Shar Pei), Japan (the Shiba Inu and Akita) and Africa (the Basenji). According to researchers, the history of how dogs became various ancient breeds is difficult to determine because of interbreeding and how they were moved to different areas around the world. It’s a complicated history scientists are still trying to unravel.

Most of the dog breeds we know and love today were created during the 1800s. Different dog breeds were interbred to create our modern day breeds and each one was bred to do a specific job for man. Some of those earlier breeds used are now extinct. Interestingly, the Saluki was isolated by geography during the time when breeds were being created in the 19th century, and their genetic makeup appears to be different than other breeds for that reason.

Dog owners know what scientists are just beginning to discover when it comes to why dogs became our best friends. Anyone who has lived with canines already understands how in tune dogs are with us and our emotions. A study I reported on earlier explained how dogs are capable of being empathic, which is something any dog owner who pays attention to their dog already understands. According to researchers, dogs became our best friend because we reward them when they show empathy towards us. They believe their study suggests that we’ve simply conditioned our dogs to respond to us.

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New Study Shows Dogs are Risk Takers

By Linda Cole

We exercise self control every day to keep our feelings, actions and thoughts under control. But sometimes we all have days when patience is thin and it can be difficult to keep from saying or doing something that could get us into trouble. If we have a hard time controlling our actions at times, imagine how hard it can be for our dogs. In a new study, team of French researchers led by Holly Miller from the University of Lille Nord de France wanted to find out if dogs react like us when they lose self control and become risk takers when their buttons are pushed to the limit.

The researchers wanted to know if dogs would throw caution to the wind and be willing to gamble by making impulsive decisions that could become dangerous or harmful to them. The answer turns out to be yes; dogs will react in much the same way we do when we have a lapse in controlling our emotions due to stress, being over tired or frustrated.

Researchers recruited 10 dogs from home environments for their testing. In one test, the dogs were trained to sit and stay on a mat for 10 minutes. As they sat still, a ZhuZhuPet toy hamster was sent roaming around the room as a distracting annoyance. The toy forced the dogs to maintain self control to remain on the mat. After 10 minutes, the dogs were taken into another room one at a time where they encountered a snarling, barking dog confined in a cage. Each dog was left in the room for four minutes as researchers recorded where the dogs chose to spend their time.

The next day the dogs were put into cages where they waited for 10 minutes. They were free to move around in the cage and didn’t have to exercise any self control by watching an annoying toy running around the room. After 10 minutes in a cage, each dog was again taken into a room with the snarling, barking dog in a cage. The dogs that spent their four minutes close to the angry dog in the cage were said to be more impulsive, and if they stayed away from the caged dog, they were more cautious.

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