Dog Science Worth Sharing!

Studying animal personality can tell us more about both animals AND humans. ~ Sam Gosling

Science is about critical thinking not facts – Prescott Breeden

I love getting things for free, and I love convenience, but when fun and enlightening education is added to the mix, I am a very happy woman!  I haven’t written in a while due to a number of life’s callings, but I took a break to share this noteworthy news with you all today.  Rarely can anyone, anywhere in the world, join a conference for free from your home, with no strings attached, but YOU CAN!

This year the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science (SPARCS) conference is free to everyone all around the world!  They began their lively discussions and presentations on Friday and they run through today -all day! The daily presentation themes include:

  • Aggression and Conflict
  • Personality and Temperament
  • Science in Training

You have the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in Canine Science from the comforts of your own home! Check out the amazing speakers here and see the full schedule here. You can see the daily TOPICS here!

There’s one more day left to learn from some of the greatest minds in canine science! Some of today’s topics include:

–> “Coyotes, Koalas, and Kangaroos: What the behavior of other animals can teach you about your dog”

–> “How owner personality influences the behavior of dogs”

 

Click here to tune in and learn more about your canine companion!


Here are just a few fascinating and enlightening quotes from today’s and yesterday’s speakers:

“Even the most complex behavior can be governed by some simple rules.” -Prescott Breeden

“Predatory behavior is NOT aggression” – Kathryn Lord

“We talk about aggression as if it’s a bad thing; natural selection supports some forms of aggression.” – Coppinger

“Taking breaks in play: allows dogs to avoid too much arousal.” – Patricia McConnell

“Results from C-BARQ suggest an inverse relationship between dog size and fear of  other dogs and strangers.” – James Serpel

“Miscommunication in play leads to conflict.” – Kathryn Lord

“One cannot generalize across the board about aggression. There are breed differences AND individual differences.” ~ James Serpell

“Breed Specific Legislation NOT JUSTIFIED” -James Serpel

“Humans unintentionally causing conflict for dogs ~
Dogs ‘appear in conflict’ and owners runs in and grabs by collar”

“A predator has to have built-in knowledge of where to bite to kill prey. Genes!” – Ray Coppinger

“Spaying & neutering effect on aggression in dogs? CBARQ data says yes, but very breed specific.”

“Dogs bark because they are conflicted. Some dogs bark MORE because they are more conflicted.” – Kathryn Lord

“Humans are selecting against owner-directed aggression all the time.” James Serpell

“Viruses that affect DNA can cause behavioral changes in mice”. – Prescott Breeden

“In dogs, conscientiousness and openness tend to meld together.” – Sam Gosling

“It’s important to know WHY dogs are barking in order to avoid anthropomorphism.” – Kathryn Lord

“Across several studies, pet store dogs are more likely to be reported as showing aggression.” James Serpell

“You want a dog you can call a pet, so you’re gonna drug it all the time? Give me a break!” Ray Coppinger

“Personality descriptions can tell us just as much about the person describing the animal as the animal itself.” – Sam Gosling

“The [animal] shelter itself can be a major negative influence on the behavior of a dog.” – Kathryn Lord

“Rely on MULTIPLE assessments for success in evaluating shelter dogs.” – James Serpell

“Dog bite data is biased toward common breeds, large breeds, and serious types of aggression.” – James Serpell

“Words we use to describe behavior may or may not be useful, too broad or too narrow or not descriptive enough.” – Sam Gosling

“Motivation can be learned (conditioned), and learning is fuelled by motivation. Keyword: ANTICIPATION” – Simon Gadbois


TUNE IN NOW to hear them for yourself!

If you are reading this after the live conference is over, the videos will be available to SPARCS members.  You can  learn about how to become a SPARCS member here!

1-SPARCS-SocialMedia-Support-Join_7.16.13

“Bringing the world together in our love for dogs!” – SPARCS 2014

That Guilty Look

 “Calvin : There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” 
― Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

guilty dog_dog shaming

 

Common Myth: When our pup puts on that doleful, guilty look, they must be guilty of something, right? He/she clearly feels bad for doing something wrong.

TRUTH: Your dog knows you are angry or upset and is using that particular body posture in their attempt of using dog language to get you to calm down and avoid any punishment from you.

 

The Science-Based Truth Behind That Guilty Expression:

Nearly 75 percent of dog guardians believe that their dogs experience guilt. Just watch Denver Dog, as he is presumed to feel very guilty in this video. It’s a natural tendency for us to interpret animal behavior in our human terms, but when we anthropomorphize (compare animal behavior to human behavior) we can overlook what is really happening.  Guilt is a human emotion.  Humans often project this guilt onto their animal companions.

Dog guardians observe particular behaviors: “avoiding eye contact, lying down and rolling to the side or onto the back, dropping the tail, wagging low and quickly, holding one’s ears down or head down, moving away from the owner, raising a paw and licking” – and owners believe these behaviors correspond with a dog’s feeling of guilty.  However, these are normal and very common dog behaviors that dogs display with each other, depending on the circumstances. These displays are called “appeasement behaviors” – behavior that inhibits or neutralizes aggression in a behavioral partner.

 

When a dog owner reprimands their dog, especially with loud, deep tones, the dog will attempt to calm the aggressive behavior of the owner (note: aggressive does not necessarily mean violent) with appeasement gestures: lowered head, ears, tail and body and squinty eyes. To the owner, this looks “guilty.”

In reality, the dog is only reacting to the behavior of the owner in the present moment and not associating the owner’s behavior with the actions of the dog that occurred hours before. The owner, however, is gratified by the dog’s appeasement gestures, taking it as evidence that the dog has learned he’s “bad.” ~ 4Paws University

 

dog guilt _dog shaming _Guilty dog
Denver the dog is displaying appeasement behaviors to his human. This does not equate to proof that Denver feels “guilty”.

“In wolves, guilt-related behaviors are believed to reinforce social bonds, as in primates, by reducing conflict and eliciting tolerance from other members of the social group. The same could be true of dogs, though their social groups would primarily include humans. Submission serves to keep a social group together, to foster group cohesion.”

 

The “guilty look” — head cowered, ears back, eyes droopy — is a reaction to the minor (or major) tantrum you are now having over the damage fido did hours earlier. They are not making the connection that you must be upset because of that poop they dropped on the rug, or the shoe they chewed that you left out. They only know you are upset about something, so they are doing what dogs do best to appease each other through nonthreatening body language.

The dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds.

A study discovered that the “guilty” look people claim to see in their companion animal is directly related to whether or not the person expected to see the look, regardless of whether or not the dog had actually done something to be “guilty” about.  When a dog looks guilty it is because they are reacting to a change in our body language that tells them something is wrong.   This leads to a dog’s body language that appears worried or nervous to us.  In reality the dog has learned to exhibit these behaviors in order to appease humans who display angry or upset body language.  Details of the research studies are here and here.

Unless your dog has been going to canine church behind your back, and has been taught to feel guilty for moral or religious reasons, it’s safe to assume that they are not actually feeling guilty; they are using their canine senses and behavior to carefully appease your anger.

paw print

 You can learn more about this subject from dog behaviorists, and read their take on it here and here.

Learn more common myths and truths about dog behavior in Decoding Your Dog, a new book from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Drs. Debra Horwitz and John Ciribassi.

Myths About Dog Behavior
Myths About Dog Behavior

 Sources:

Scientific American

Discovery

In Defense of Dogs

John Bradshaw, one of the world’s leading dog experts and director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, is dedicated to studying the relationship between man and the animal world. In his book, In Defense of Dogs, he calls for a new understanding of our canine friends . This book is a compelling insight into what dogs would ask us for, if only they knew how. The dog has been mankind’s faithful companion for tens of thousands of years, yet today finds itself in a type of crisis.

If you were a dog just over 100 years ago, life would have been simple. You would likely have been gainfully employed – perhaps hunting, herding or guarding – and provided you did your job, your owners would have accepted that you were sometimes messy, loud or unpredictable. Most dogs today are never expected to work, even though they are often still tuned into functions their breed has fulfilled for thousands of years. Instead, they are expected to behave like small children, yet be as independent as adults. To make things worse, our culture is awash with myths that prevent dogs being properly understood – in particular, the enduring idea that they harbour a powerful desire to dominate their family pack. Put simply: dogs are on the brink of a crisis. And as we have put them there, it is our responsibility to help them. ~ John Bradshaw

This scholarly and passionate book shows us a new understanding of our canine friends. It’s a “stand up for dogdom” – to understand dogs as they truly are, not as we assume they are. As a canine expert and dog lover, Bradshaw discusses how our treatment of dogs is based on so many mistaken beliefs, misperceptions, and assumptions. He sets the record straight through canine science.

In Defense of Dogs shows us the science behind:

  • Why dogs need us
  • Why reward-based training works
  • Why punishment never works
  • How they experience fear, love, affection and joy, but they do not experience guilt
  • How and why our better understanding of dogs can help them thrive in our human world

Biologists now know far more about what really makes dogs tick than they did twenty years ago, but this new understanding has been slow to percolate through to owners, and has not yet made enough of a difference to the lives of the dogs themselves. This book is here to set the record straight and it’s a must-read for all dog guardians.

In Defense Of Dogs John Bradshaw

You can read 2 reviews of In Defense of Dogs here and here