As pup parents, we love giving our dogs human emotions. We analyze everything they do, attributing their actions to deep and meaningful thoughts and feelings. This is called anthropomorphism; the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.
Looking into their soulful eyes each day, how could we not?
Many non-believers have been skeptical in the past, stating that these human-like thoughts and feelings are something we manifest in our own mind. This essentially says that we are looking too deeply into basic animalistic urges and characteristics. Some religions even believe that dogs do not possess a “soul.” Any dog lover will strongly disagree.
Fortunately, we have the power of scientific research and evidence to back up our theory!
Do Dogs Really Have Feelings?
The correct answer is: Yes, dogs understand human emotions on a deep, and empathetic level. Not only does your dog understand how you are feeling, but he is able to feel the same emotions.
Dogs possess a range of emotions that are identified as “human.”
Charles Darwin once said “under the expectation of any great pleasure, dogs bound and jump about in an extravagant manner, and bark for joy.” Dog owners and lovers alike understand and interpret this emotion with ease. It is very clear to see when a dog is expressing feelings of joy, whether they are bounding about, or wagging their tails.
Friederike Range, a researcher at the University of Vienna in Austria, discovered that dogs have an understanding of equality and “fair play.” Her and her team gathered a group of dogs that understood the command “shake a paw.” They were given a treat every time they completed the command. However, when they witnessed a dog receiving a treat without obeying the command, they stopped themselves. A similar experiment involving monkeys was conducted, and concluded with similar results. One monkey even became outraged by the inequality, and proceeded to throw fruit at the researcher.
A neuroscientist named Gregory Berns is responsible for discovering the evidence linking canines to humans in loving relationships. Your dog really does love you!
Berns published a book titled “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain,” which explains in detail his research and findings on canine love capabilities. Berns trained dozens of dogs to lay still in MRI machines in order to conduct accurate results without sedating the dogs. What he and his team found was that dogs possess a similar portion of the brain to humans, which is responsible for positive emotions.
Another study was conducted by a researcher named Paul Zak, that proved animals are capable of romantic love. In this study, a goat fell in love with a terrier mix. Unfortunately, the terrier saw the goat as “just a friend,” and did not reciprocate the romantic feelings.
There are millions of “dog shaming” videos on the internet of pups hunched over, head held low, ears back, and possibly a mischievous grin on their smug little faces. Dogs are capable of understanding that their actions have consequences. Therefore, they realize that there is a negative reaction when they’ve done something naughty. This is why, when you step into your home after being out for the day and your dog slowly walks towards you smiling, you know immediately that there must be trash all over your living room. Dogs are terrible at concealing emotions.
Dogs do not express grief in the same way that humans do, but they definitely understand deep sadness. When a family member, or pack member, passes away, a dog may experience loss of appetite, fear, depression, lack of or oversleeping, and anxiety.
A study conducted in 1996, by the the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, studied the behavior of dogs after losing a companion. The study showed that 66% of dogs expressed four or more behavioral changes in reaction to their loss. The average dog returned to normal after two weeks, but some took as long as six months to recover.
This is the same reaction commonly seen by pet owners in their own dogs when a pet companion or human family member passes away.
This heartbreaking video shows a dog “crying” on her deceased owner’s grave. The dog may be experiencing an anxiety attack due to losing her closest companion.
That’s right; dogs can laugh!
One researcher, by the name of Patricia Simonet from Sierra Nevada College, conducted a study that proved dogs are capable of expressing laughter. Some excited or quick exhales are actually forms of laughter. These doggy chuckles were recorded while watching two dogs play from a distance. The researchers discovered that a special form of breathing – different from regular panting- was displayed during the playtime. When played back to other dogs, who were not engaged in play, they became notably excited.
Comparing Dogs to Humans
Anthropomorphize your little heart out!
Psychology Today published an article addressing the anthropomorphism of dogs by humans. The article stated that, “traditionally, the anthropomorphizing of animals was seen as the mark of a weak intellect and an over-active emotional system,” and continued on to debunk this theory with evidence from a researcher named Sam Gosling.
Sam Gosling, a researcher at the University of Texas, studies animal personality in the same manner that one would study human. Using the “Big Five” personality dimensions, -extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness- Gosling was able to determine that dogs and humans possess the same combination of personality traits.
“There are two interpretations of this finding. One interpretation is that animal personalities are so complex that they are equivalent to human personalities. The other interpretation is that with the trait-rating approach, human personalities are so simplified that they are equivalent to animal personalities.” –Psychology Today
Based on his findings, we are able to conclude that animals, in fact, are not only capable of understanding human emotions, but they think, feel, and possess individual personalities in the same way humans do. By comparing humans and animals on a basic, scientific level -without considering either of more or less importance- we are able to discover the deep similarities between us and our pets. In a lot of ways, we are no different from each other.
So, next time you want to unapologetically anthropomorphize your dog, go right ahead!