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The Psychology of Dogs

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The editors at Best Psychology Degrees decided to research the topic of:

The Psychology of Dogs

Human, inhuman, but mostly just lovable in every possible way, the differences and similarities between dogs and people are surprising across the board.

Because of the long history of the domestication of dogs...

- Timeline [1] [2]
- 30,000 B.C.--Paleolithic humans likely hunted in tandem with wild dogs.
- 12,000 B.C.-Dog and human remains were buried together
- (suggesting dogs were valued as people were)
- 10,500 B.C.-Different breeds of domesticated dogs are distinguishable
- 1,500 C.E.-Oldest modern breeds are formed from: [3]
- European Wolf
- Terriers
- Mastiffs
- Herding Dogs
- Indian Wolf
- Sight hounds
- Chinese Wolf
- Feral Dogs
- Chow Chows
- Asian Spaniels
- North American Wolf
- Spitz
- Native American Dogs

And their human like capacity to feel love and affection...

- (emotions dogs feel) [4]
- Affection/Love
- Suspicion/shyness
- Joy
- Anger
- Fear
- Disgust
- Contentment
- Distress
- Excitement/arousal

Dogs share the hormone Oxytocin with humans; it allows them to feel love and affection

We often "humanize" the actions of dogs

But what are they really thinking?

Dogs have the emotional development of a 2.5 year old child.
- Leaving
- Shame
- Pride
- Guilt
- Contempt
- Undeveloped (these emotions develop in human babies between the age of 3-4) [4]
- (But, hey, some dogs are smarter than others, so there's always hope.)
- Dogs can't plan for the future. They also can't recall isolated moments in the past.
- That's because they don't have episodic memory.[5]
- This doesn't mean they can't learn (obviously).
- Dogs can build complex sets of knowledge, but unlike humans, they don't remember the learning part.
- Like most mammals, dogs exhibit the "copying effect," where they imitate what their elders do in order to learn to survive.
- An episode in history: Most things are a bit speculative from 30,000 years ago, but one learning moments for dogs occurred when "more social and less fearful" wild dogs realized that having their pups near human camps meant free food. The pups were socialized with people from a young age, and with every generation dogs became more and more domesticated. [99]

Without specific memories or forethought, dogs rely heavily on instincts and reflexes

- In the several millions of years of socialization before domestication, dogs formed their current hierarchy.
- Either the person leads, or the dog does.
- In the wild, oftentimes on the dominant pair of a pack reproduces. Making moving up the social hierarchy important, and making modern wild dogs hard to domesticate. [99]
- Freedom Lovers: This is related to the opposition reflex. When you pull on a puppy, oftentimes it tries to push away, this is because dogs reflexively want to be in control of themselves.[6]
- Due to the proximity of the dog's mouth and eyes, and the incentive of a potential meal, rapid movement in front of a dog's eyes triggers the mouth to snap.[6]
- Dogs can snap up quickly moving flies that fly past their eyes.
- Dog's aren't quite as good at problem solving as humans, and often exhibit barrier-frustration syndrome when their path is obstructed. [6]
- Often results in relieving stress through barking, jumping, or soiling.

But in many ways dogs are similar to humans

- As many dog owners know, dogs have dreams. [7]
- Dogs enter dreams about 20 minutes after falling asleep.
- Movement, soft barks, and whimpers are common as the dog acts out their dream.
- Dog's eyes move under their eyelids as they look around their dream world.
- Dogs experience runner's highs to a greater extent than humans. [8]
- Endocannabinoids reward animals that evolutionarily have needed to run long distances in order to survive.
- Humans and dogs share this evolutionary niche.
- So do horses and antelopes.
- An animal like a ferret does not, as it relies on short bursts and agility to catch its prey.
- Like humans, dogs can hold an irrational fear or phobia of sundry things. [10]

Top phobias [9]

- Thunder
- Fireworks
- Being left alone
- Vets
- Riding in the car
- Going up and down the stairs
- Men
- Strangers
- Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) is much like OCD is humans. [10]
- Due to boredom, stress, misfiring neurotransmitters, or being rewarded at the wrong time.
- Can include excessive licking, tail-chasing, chasing of shadows or reflections, snapping at flies, or flank sucking.
- Just as humans miss people, dogs have separation anxiety. [10]
- With one human year equaling seven dog years, it makes sense why they miss you when you're gone for an afternoon!
- Dogs have religious experiences. [11][12][13][14]
- Dogs also have a limbic system, one of the most primitive areas of the brain and the portion responsible for spiritual experiences.
- Dogs as well as Chimpanzees have been reported putting themselves into trance like states gazing at sunsets, frolicking under waterfalls, and the like.
- Dogs have near death experiences. [11] [13][14]
- This phenomenon is caused by the eyes susceptibility to the low blood flow that occurs after fainting or cardiac arrest.
- As dogs have eyes very similar to humans they too share in this phenomena.
- Dogs have out of body experiences.
- Which are also related to the limbic system, balance center of the ear, and eyes, all of which function similarly in dogs.
- So with the myriad ways, in which we think dogs are little four-legged children, always remember...
- "If you are a dog and your owner suggests you wear a sweater...suggest that he wear a tail." --Fran Lebowitz


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