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Sat Sep 14, 2019, 10:32 PM

What Does It Feel Like to Be a Dog?

I see emotion in dogs all the time. At my Dog Cognition Lab, many of the studies we create are unintentional emotional provocations: I see dogs feeling surprise when a hidden person appears from behind a door, or disgust when they sniff a very strong smell. When I watch dogs in the “wild” — out in parks, among people and other dogs — I see regular displays of fear, apprehension, joy, interest and affection. My own dogs, subject to my near-continuous gaze, appear to be great furry balls of sentiment and expression: anticipation of going for a walk, disappointment at being left at home, pride in hoisting an improbably large stick out of a river. Still, one of the questions I am most often asked is whether dogs feel bored, get angry or — most important of all — love their human companions. Essentially, people want to know whether science has demonstrated that dogs feel emotions comparable to our own.

(snip)

Researchers have developed a catalog of facial expressions associated with different emotions in dogs. Two muscles around the eye are particularly good at expressing concern, sadness or attention. The eyebrow on the left side of the face is more active when dogs see their owners, presumably because it corresponds to the right side of the brain, which controls emotional expression. And your pup’s tail-wags at your return become more intense the longer you’ve been gone. Some creative researchers have used infrared thermography to look at changes in dogs’ ear temperature in different contexts: It drops when dogs are alone and anxious and goes up when their owner returns. Yet the recent history of science also reveals the inconsistency in how we think about animals’ experience. For the last century, Western science has usually refused to attribute emotions to nonhuman animals. This denial emerged from caution. Emotions are subjective experiences; sometimes they are opaque even to ourselves, so that we have to try to “get in touch” with them.

(snip)

At the same time, however, much medical and psychiatric research operates on the premise that dogs have emotions akin to our own. To prove the efficacy of an antianxiety drug for humans, for instance, the drug first has to be tested on an animal model. Should someone argue that a dog can’t be depressed or benefit from anti-depression medication, I’ll walk them back in time to the 1960s, when psychologist Martin Seligman developed the idea of “learned helplessness.” In his study, dogs who were repeatedly shocked, without chance of escape, became sufficiently resigned to their fate that even when they were given a way out, they sat passive and unmoving. They had learned to feel helpless—they suffered from what we might call severe depression.

In fact, a century of research in brain science and psychology has confirmed that animals have emotions.

- Look at it adaptively: Emotions exist in animals because they are useful, allowing one to escape a predator out of fear or to avoid a toxic food out of disgust.
- Look at it neurologically: Discrete areas of the human brain that are active when we feel, sigh, yearn and despair—such as the amygdala—are also found in dogs’ brains.
- Look at it chemically: The levels of oxytocin, the peptide hormone implicated in bonding between human parents and children, also rises in dogs after they interact with their owners.

Look at it behaviorally: Though we are not always great at naming which behavior indicates what emotion, the wide array of different behaviors and postures of dogs plainly tell us that they are having emotional experiences. Their ears, eyes, mouths, tails and bodies change in reaction to external events and internal states, as expressive of emotion as a human face.

(snip)

Does your dog love you? Don’t look to science to tell you. But if you watch carefully and acknowledge the complexity behind their behavior, you’ll go as far inside the dog’s mind as a scientist can.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-does-it-feel-like-to-be-a-dog-11566486816 (Paid subscription)

—Dr. By Alexandra Horowitz runs the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. This essay is adapted from her new book, “Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond,” which will be published by Scribner on Sept. 3.





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Reply What Does It Feel Like to Be a Dog? (Original post)
question everything Sep 14 OP
Bayard Sep 14 #1
question everything Sep 14 #2
PoliticAverse Sep 14 #3

Response to question everything (Original post)

Sat Sep 14, 2019, 10:51 PM

1. "dogs who were repeatedly shocked, without chance of escape,"

I don't care if it was the '60's, that's torture.

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Response to Bayard (Reply #1)

Sat Sep 14, 2019, 10:53 PM

2. I know. It squeezed my heart when first read and hesitated to post it here



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Response to question everything (Original post)

Sat Sep 14, 2019, 10:55 PM

3. Apparently it's ruff. n/t

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