Sunday, 29 July 2012
Ah! Dogs know....
New research shows that dogs respond to their owner's unhappiness. Published onJune 7, 2012 by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Canine Corner
People often report that it seems as if their dogs are reading their emotional state and responding in much the same way that a human would, providing sympathy and comfort, or joining in their joy. For example an acquaintance named Deborah told me that she had just gotten off of the phone after learning that her sister's husband had died and was sitting on the sofa wiping tears from her eyes and trying to deal with her sadness. She said, "At that moment Angus [her Golden retriever] came over to me and laid his head on my knee and began to whimper. A moment later he quietly walked away, and then returned with one of his favorite toys and gently put it in my lap, and gently licked my hand. I knew he was trying to comfort me. I believe that he was feeling my pain and hoping that the toy which made him happy might also help me to feel better.."
Such incidents involving pet dogs appear to be quite common and at face value they seem to show that dogs are showing empathy for their owners. Generally speaking empathy can be defined as the ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand and even share their emotions and feelings. Although dog owners seem to be quite sure that their dogs have empathy for their feelings, if you make that suggestion to a group of psychologists are behavioral biologists it is more apt to start an argument rather than to bring out nods of agreement.
I was interested in this blog I quote, as I have noticed how in-tune my dogs are with me - and what happens around them regarding interpersonal relationships. I think constant dis chord can make them sick, just as it does us.
I remember an amusing incident (in hind sight) when one of my daughter's husbands came to visit her whilst she was staying with us, to try to sort out their very unhealthy, manipulative marriage. His rage at her non compliance to go home with him was palpable. We left them together in one corner of the lounge and withdrew with the dog who was distressed and anxious. There was no shouting or yelling - only a sinister silence. Suddenly the husband stomped out of the house, slamming doors and spreading silent fury all over us. As soon as he had gone, our dog ran over to the chair where he had been sitting, sniffing it anxiously. Suddenly, to our surprise, our otherwise house trained wise old dog, then wee'd all over the carpet in front of it.
What point was she making I wonder. Was she frightened? Was she putting her scent on an unpleasant place? From a human perspective, why do such a very odd thing?
But for us, it was the best symbolic summary of how we all felt - pissed off!