By Shannon Frost Greenstein

Everyone loves their dogs.  Everyone dotes on them, hugs them, cares for them, squeezes them.  For some, a dog is their child, and it is pampered as such.  We feel like we understand our dog’s needs, and the love we get in return.

However, a new study out of the cognitive neuroscience department at University College London suggests that dogs view us very differently than we do them.  What’s more, the findings suggest that dogs are more in tune with our moods and feelings than we are with their own.

Researchers have found that with wolves, the human being is regarded as an alpha pack leader.  However, many of us, the study found, view our dogs more as children than as canines.  This can lead to the inability to correctly read a dog’s emotions, and leads to our incorrect assumptions about what our dogs want or need.

Professor Sophie Scott said: ‘There was a study this year that showed that dogs don’t like being hugged.  You look at photographs of dogs being hugged by people and the dogs show objective signs of distress…It provokes anxiety in them.  And pretty much everyone’s reaction to this was:  ‘Well, I don’t think that’s my dog.’  It was a very good example of this asymmetry.”

We, as a species, tend to treat our canine companions closer to the way we would treat a small child than we would, say, a wolf or other wild mammal.  It’s no surprise, then, that we think we know their instincts and emotions when we are, in fact, just projecting them onto the animals.

Meanwhile, dogs are very in tune with our moods and feelings…anyone who has had a dog come comfort them when they are sad can attest to that.  Because we are misinterpreting what our dogs are actually thinking or enjoying, they actually have a better sense of human emotion than we do of canine emotion.

Dogs are, in effect, domesticated wolves.  Would you say you can sense a wolf’s mood and what it prefers?

Yeah.  Me, neither.

 

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