Understanding your dogs emotions

“I’ll get you out soon” I promise as I rush to get the children breakfast. I get “the look”, the one that tells me I’d better hurry up. She sighs and sits back down. As the children get dressed for school I run her outside. I clap my hands and say “lets go, lets go!”. I get yet another look basically telling me that I’m pushing my luck. She takes her sweet time as she goes about her business. Who am I talking to? Who is “she?”. That would be my chocolate Labrador Retriever Dakota. Does she understand what I’m saying to her? You bet she does.

According to Stanley Coren, trained dogs can understand an average of 160 words. Although a dog’s understanding of human emotion is the subject of debate within the scientific community those of us who are dog lovers know that they can understand us.

Leaving Dakota for extended periods of time due to travel was met with dirty looks placed in my direction for days upon my return. I know the scientific community would give me an adequate explanation for her display of anger. However, I know my dog so well that the only explanation is the fact she was just quite simply mad at me for leaving her. In fact, I always know when Dakota is mad at me. I can almost see the bubble appearing over her head with the words “how dare you!”. Most dog owners will state that their beloved pet is quite in tune with their emotions. Are they really?

I talk to Dakota regularly while she follows me around the house. We discuss current events, parenting issues and the schedule for that day. I either get a “nose up” or a “nose down” depending on her opinion of the subject at hand. Dog Behavior Consultant Pam Young states that our facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact and even posture results in a dogs response leading an owner to think that our dog “knows what we our saying”. Most dog owners will state that their dogs are brilliant and talented and that scientific evidence is not needed to reinforce the bond and understanding between owner and pet.

Whether our pets understanding of us is based in science or wishful thinking Bruce Blumberg, senior scientist at Blue Fang Games states that the relationship “works for dogs and works for people”. With over 72 million dogs nationwide sharing our homes its obvious that we value their love and loyalty, and of course, their understanding.

(Written for our favorite brown dog who moved to the Rainbow Bridge Jan. 06, 2009)




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