I’m working on an article for The APDT Chronicle on what are called “secondary emotions” in non-human animals. I have an article in the latest issue (May/June 2009) about “primary emotions” like fear and anger, and am following up with a smaller one about emotions like jealousy, guilt and empathy. I guess it’s obvious from my last big book, For the Love of a Dog, that I’m fascinated by the topic of emotions in other animals, and equally fascinated by our perception of them.
Almost by definition, primary emotions are accepted as occurring in a wide variety of species; and yet, I’ve had numerous people disagree with the concept that animals can experience some of them, with the most concern about attributing anger to non-humans. (As I’ve written earlier, anger is an extremely primitive, basic emotion, and denying the existence of it in other mammals is hard to justify once you know the biology behind it, but it seems to be important for people to try.)
There is much more controversy and confusion over what are called the “secondary emotions” in animals, which are generally argued to exist only in humans, and are believed to require complex cognitive abilities often uniquely attributed to us, including self awareness and what’s called “theory of mind.” These emotions, like jealousy, empathy, pride, guilt and shame can be further categorized as “self-conscious emotions” like jealousy and “self-conscious evaluative emotions” like guilt and shame. The “evaluative” modifier refers to the requirement that the experience of guilt or shame is based on evaluating a behavior against a rule or standard that is understood by the individual experiencing it.
I’m reading an interesting article related to all this in Cognition and Emotion (2008, 22(1), 3-20) by Morris, Doe and Godsell about secondary emotions and the perceptions of pet owners. The authors do an excellent job summarizing the controversy, arguing that secondary emotions are not necessarily uniquely human, and describing a study in which pet owners were asked if a list of primary and secondary emotions were observed in their pet (including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rats, rabbits….). In a second study, they asked owners to describe the situations in which the emotion of jealousy occurred. (“Can you give examples of the situations in which your dog gets jealous?”) Needless to say, this is tricky stuff–publishing an article in a scientific journal about what owners think of their pets–and in my opinion, the authors did a great job with it. I especially like their thoughtful discussion about the value (and problems) of owner reports, including the obvious fact that just because someone thinks their dog is jealous doesn’t mean that their dog is jealous.
They address these issues extremely well, and conclude by, in part, arguing that the behavior described by the owners (as the basis for their perception of jealousy) are the same behaviors described as jealousy in humans. In their study the context of the presumed occurrence of jealousy always involved a triad of people and animals, in which one animal attempted to divert attention away from another by pushing between the other two or vocalizing. Thus, they focus on the behavior of the animals, showing that the “jealous” animals did exactly what humans do when we label their behavior as motivated by jealousy. They correctly argue that this is not proof that non-human animals experience jealousy, but that it is important information that suggests we should at least seriously consider it. Here here.
Note that for this second study they focused on what I think of as the “simplest” of secondary emotions: jealousy. I’ve long argued that jealousy is simply a form of anger (“I Want It, You Have It and I Don’t and I”m Angry about It.) It seems logical to me that the other secondary emotions are indeed the result of a more complicated type of cognition . . . but, what do you think? Can dogs be guilty (fyi, I’m not saying they can’t, but think this is the emotion most often MIS-attributed to dogs). Can dogs feel shame? True Empathy? I’d love to get a conversation started about this….
By the way, the study I cited above found differences in secondary emotions attributed to animals based on species: Over 70% of dog owners reported jealousy and guilt in their dogs and over 70% of horse owners reported jealousy and pride. Interesting, hey? Is this a result of our expectations? Mis-reading their facial expressions? A true species difference?
Meanwhile, back at the farm: Spring is in all its glory and I honestly don’t know how it could be more beautiful. Here’s our giant Lilac bush, back lit by the Sunburst Locust and the Oak/Hickory forest across the road:
Redford is now safely ensconced at Jim and Peg’s beautiful farm. It can be dangerous to put two unfamiliar rams together; they are highly territorial and can injure or even kill each other. We talked at length about how to make the transition safe: the standard method is to put them together in a pen so small that they can’t back up and ram into each other with any force. Peg also got two “ram shields” that block their forward vision and are reputed to prevent aggression. She thought she’d use them once she let the rams out into a bigger pen after a few days–she’s had rams stand side by side in small pens for a few days, and then immediately back up and shake the ground with the jack hammer-like force of their bony heads smashing together.
After thinking about it, she decided to put them in adjacent small pastures at first to let them become familiar. I agreed with the plan, and with a bit of “loading-into-the-truck” drama, we got Redford settled in a small pasture with a couple of wethers (neutered males) beside the Katahdin ram, who I call Chili Bean.
Peg went to check on them a bit later, and found that Redford and friends had crawled on their knees through a low, tiny hole in the fence… and cuddled up to Chili. Here are the boys now, best of friends and potentially amused at all of our concerns. . .(could that be a secondary emotion in sheep, best labeled “amusement brought on by the behavior of humans”?)
I think the secondary emotion debate is fascinating. I have no scientific opinions on it one way or another, you understand, but I love reading about it, and don’t see why animals couldn’t have secondary emotions. (Why NOT?) I don’t think that my dog is as in-tune with his emotional state as I am, he doesn’t think about it or worry about it, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel them in the first place. They just flit through and move on–no analysis needed. (“Why did I feel like that when Mom petted that other dog?” “I’m so glad I went and sat next to her while she was feeling sad because it made her feel better.”)
How timely! On one of the horse boards I frequent there was a post about a gelding that had been shown for two years by his owner, who then sold this horse to a 14 year old girl. He had been ridden as a lesson horse at the original owners home, had been “test ridden” by the young woman before purchase and was a perfect mount. The new owner had him home for about a week when he suddenly began to lead badly (trying to run her over) and “acting crazy”. He and the previous owner had an especially strong bond, and as I read the post I wondered if the gelding wasn’t having some SA from his previous beloved owner. The behavior he exhibited sounded much like some young children (4,5, 6ish) who are under a tremendous emotional stress from moving/divorce/new home/new friends etc.
For whatever reason, the post about this poor gelding struck at my heart….perhaps because my mare and I have that strong bond too. When someone else is riding her, I have to be out of sight or this normally very obedient mare will ignore all of the cues she knows throughly to make a bee line to me and just stand there.
The more I learn about behavior, the less I think I know.
that’s a funny ram story, made me laugh
I’ve seen what I thought looked like jealousy, older dog wanting what younger dog had, even if toys were identical and purchased at same time, & switched, saw that in children, too. interestingly after older dog
passed, a new younger dog had same jealous looking reaction to same dog, I didn’t think in either situation
it mattered whether I was present or not. (dog #2 never had any jealous type reactions, but after many years
did get tired of giving up his toys)
However in what looked like a guilty or pleased reaction, it seemed to depend on me or someone there,
almost as if it were based on my emotions? that’s a good one, I’ve always wondered this about kids, too
Splash's mom, Ki's teammate says
Oh GOSH I miss lilacs! Just lovely…..I wish they grew here. OTOH, I have orange and lemon blossoms, so I guess I should just be grateful.
Jennifer Hamilton says
I suspect that the answers will be very different based on the training techniques used. The more positive the environment, the less likely for owners to report they are seeing shame or guilt. Is this an important distinction? For example, if I do not punish my puppy, is it’s brain underdeveloped in the shame/guilt areas or is it just less likely to be afraid of me and therefore I am less likely to see body language that I could interpret as shame or guilt. If my dog has more reason to be afraid of me, am I more likely to interpret that fear as shame or guilt? I think about how differently I raised recent dogs over those 20 years ago and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my dogs today rarely respond with negative emotions (other than fear of some external stimuli). Is it because their brains developed differently or because I don”t have opportunities to misinterpret their fear as shame or guilt.
I like the idea of focusing on dog/dog interactions as it seems more pure when you take out the human component.
I think my biggest issue with attributing emotions and secondary emotions to dogs isn’t IF they have them but correctly assigning them. For me in rescue the most common thing I hear is that a dog’s misbehavior when the owner isn’t home is related to anger or jealousy. And I can see why — if a human broke things around the house b/c another human left it would likely be rooted in anger. You left, I’m here still, I’m mad and I’ll break your stuff. So people so quickly decide that’s why the dog is doing it and then do any number of misguided things from coming home and yelling to surrendering the dog. Guilt I think can be very similar I have to often remind my husband what he sometimes attributes to a dog as their “guilty” look is simply them reacting to HIM. He isn’t a loud man but he tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve and just his posture and gestures can get more submissive responses from the dogs when he’s angry, even if he’s trying to stay calm. The dogs aren’t guilty they just know hubby is ticked.
So I guess that’s my biggest concern – how do you help to explain that yes dogs do have emotions and secondary emotions but they aren’t exactly equitable to what a human’s are?
Kerry L. says
My 5 year old male corgi (Walter) behaves in a jealous manner when I pay attention to the cat or when my 7 year old female terrier plays with another dog. Walter gets between her and the other dog and tries to cut off their contact. On the other hand, when the 11 year old chihuahua feels threatened or afraid, Walter gets between him and whatever he’s feeling threatened by. The behaviors certainly seem like an emotional response. Kerry
Now we have to be very careful that we don’t get too anthropomorphistic on this topic. Where is the line between real emotion and our way of interpreting emotion ? Is the animal really emotional/rational, or are we interpreting a “human-like” behavior as an emotion ?
Example: I play with my shepherd and my dachshund, who NEVER playfully interacts wants to start playing with me to get my attention. As soon as she gets it she will turn away as if to say “mission accomplished”. 🙂 Is this a behavior triggered by jealousy or is it just everyday dog behavior because that’s what dogs do ?
Primary emotions like sadness, fear, anger or happiness are replaced by secondary emotions which I personally find very hard to understand. Isn’t it a fact, that primary emotions can also be secondary emotions ?
The secondary emotion will probably help you understand an animal’s mental processing of the primary emotion. The question is: Is an animal capable of such a thought process and how can it be proven ? Isn’t a secondary emotion often a “voluntary emotion/act” ?
I’m really curious, what the scientific explanation on that topic is. 🙂
Having recently upped the dogs in my house to 3, the behavior is just facinating to watch. Anger? absolutely. Heaven help the dog that tries to take something from my terrier mix. But, the most interesting behavior I find is the “trickery” they use to get something the other has. What I find most funny is my terrier mix and hound mix pull the trickery on my Aussie (supposed to be so smart) and he falls for it everytime. If he has something they want, or is in the spot they want to lay in….they go to the door and bark. He rushes to see what’s up, leaving the bone or spot and then the one that barked immediately goes and claims what he had.
I see jealousy in my dog all the time, he just can’t for anyone to get attention besides him. I don’t know what emotion other than jealousy you could attribute that to, resource guarding? He’s more frantic and anxious than he is angry during his jealous moments, and as he has guarded a few resources, I know that when he is in “this is mine” mode he’s more angry than anxious.
That being said I’ve *never* seen the dog look guilty or shameful. I have seen him looking quite pleased with himself however! 🙂
Ah I take that back! Actually once when he first came to live with us he was chewing a rawhide in bed with me as I tried to go to sleep and it was keeping me up so I was getting grumpy and I just grabbed the chew to put it away and he bit me very quickly.
I was so shocked I just said, DJ! and then I left him alone and he dropped the chew and licked my hand, quite appeasingly. He wouldn’t go back to the chew either so I took it and put it away. He’s not the type to look crushed at a cross word either.
Ellen Pepin says
My late dog, Nikki, used to pull the same trick that Jen reported. Only, she played it on my husband and me. She would run to the front door and bark as if someone was out there. One of us would get up from the table to check. Nikki would then double back to the table and had a sample of our dinner.
We recently adopted a three year old collie and our other dog, a shepherd/rottweiler mix shows every sign of being jealous. He will push in between the collie and me for attention. We also bought them identical stuffed toys. At first they each peacefully chew on the toys. Then Dakota, the shepherd mix, went over to the collie and tried to take her toy.
Kathi D says
I am not sure just what “empathy” would look like, but this seems close. Our two Shelties were lifelong (13 years +) companions, and when our male had several months of failing health, our female was always near him, seemingly looking out for him. When he settled on a comfy bed, she would be on the floor by his side, for example. It did seem like empathy.
It took her several months to recover from his death, even having a life-threatening illness that was similar to his and idiopathic. She is now well and her recovery was very unpredictable by medical standards.
I like your defination of jealousy a lot. It fits my experience of both species LOL
I would say that empathy is similiarly misdefined. Most humans ime, have their basis of empathy in concern for how the other person’s situation will or could affect them. I see the same between dogs and dog and their humans.
Liz F. says
I agree with Deb in saying that personally I have “…no scientific opinions on it one way or another, you understand, but I love reading about it, and don
Jennifer Hamilton says
JEALOUSY…I see lots of what appears to be jealousy at our free-play pet resort where groups of dogs play together with a trained supervisor who does not interact but is there to address escalation issues. (We do not have toys in our groups and train our supervisors to act more like lifeguards than like interactive playmates with the dogs.)
Where I see what looks like jealousy is in the triad play (3 dogs trying to play together). Susan Bennett, a dog trainer who also writes books on social dog play for daycamp operators (allaboutdogdaycare.com), made me much more aware of how 3 dogs playing together almost always results in an escalation in negative behaviors and makes it more likely for negative outcomes. Since reading her materials and studying the affect of triads in our social dog play environment, we have since trained all of our social dog play supervisors to interrupt any attempts at three dog play when they see it.
Two dog play, no problem. Four dog play, no problem. Five dog play, no problem. But three dog play…BIG problem. The escalation behaviors look much like jealousy as two dogs are usually playing just fine and then a third wants to join in. Inevitably, one of the three feels left out and starts to behave badly taking it out on the other two with nipping, barking inappropriately, or starting a fight.
Sound familiar…like 3 small children playing together?
Jennifer Hamilton says
PRIDE…If pride is wanting others to to take notice of an accomplishment, then I sense my dog may be exhibiting it.
My dog does not like to be groomed professionally…never has…even though nothing bad has ever happened to her. But I own a pet resort and she is a long coated dog, so grooming is part of her monthly ritual. She is not phobic or overly fearful, she just doesn’t like to be groomed. I have tried some CCC, but her reaction is more like “I don’t wanna go” than “I’m afraid”. So, for the most part, I’ve chalked it up to one of those things that she doesn’t like but has to do (kind of like me going to the OB/GYN every year.)
To ensure her dislike didn’t escalate to anxiety, I have treated trips across the parking lot to/from our grooming shop as “the same level of least importance”. No unusual interaction before or after grooming. In fact, I have made a point of giving no eye contact and going about my business whenever she is finished from grooming in an effort to not get her excited or worked up on either end of the process.
An interesting behavior has remained, regardless of my lack of interest or attention. Whenever she comes back from grooming, she is very animated, excited, and demanding of my attention. (Before you put your finger down your throat thinking I’m going to say what all of my clients say…that it’s because she thinks she’s so pretty and beautiful…that’s not what I think is going on.) Her behavior after the groom, however, is not your typical “I’m happy to see you”. Rather, it is a demand to be acknowledged including request barks (not excited barks) and body slams (neither behavior ever done during normal excited greetings) until I make eye contact with her.
Since her behavior is different and much more demanding then our typical “I’m happy to see you” greeting…and because my reaction is the same in both cases…I wonder if she is asking to be acknowledged for enduring something that she finds difficult…perhaps the same way you would might expect your friends to acknowledge you running a marathon. “It was hard, but I got through it, so give me a little credit here.”
I obviously don’t know what is going on in her head, but her behavior is noticably different in this particular circumstance than any other and I am fairly confident I am not affecting her behavior positevly or negatively. The same behavior has continued for 7 years now and has neither escalated or extinguished itself. So, I suspect some underlying innate emotion is at play…and it seems to deserve more explanation than just the primary emotion of happiness.
Could this be pride of accomplishment?
Mary Lou says
I’ve certainly observed what SEEMS to be jealousy in my Banshee … I have 4 dogs (all rescues, all spayed, all about the same age, yes, I know this is a bad idea but it was unavoidable and we’re doing ‘OK’) … Banshee is the one of my dogs who is ‘jealous’ of the others getting attention, particularly being brushed or petted. The other dogs have no issues with the others getting attention, only Banshee. She’ll restrain herself for a few minutes, then butt her way in, often humping my leg. She also can give the most eloquent ‘back off’ looks to the other dogs (who do indeed back off) Her ‘jealous’behavior is improving,slowly (at first when i added the 3rd and then 4th dogs, she couldn’t even sit and wait her turn for a treat without glaring or snapping at the others, now she can. But (unless it’s resource guarding and I’m the resource) it sure LOOKS like jealousy to me. (This was the question I had for the podcast, how to prevent and eventually stop this humping behavior)
Alessandro Rosa says
I think that the easiest case can be made for Empathy. How often have you heard it said that a pet senses the emotional state of the human it is around and responds to it.
One definition of empathy is the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. If a dog sense that his owner is sad and quitely comes over and gently nuzzles his owner, couldn’t it be argued that the dog is being empathetic to its owner? I would especially argue this to be the case if the owner didn’t call the dog or even notice that it was in the room with them.
And while I do feel that we dog lovers tend to attribute too much of the human psyche to our dogs, I definitely think that there are more to them many people are willing to acknowledge. Tonight I walked my beagle puppy, Darwin, to the park. My girlfriend had gone straight to the park from work ans was sitting on a bench about 50 feet from the entrance. Darwin was being his usual beagle self and was exploring every possible scent in the grass and probably forgot I even existed at the other end of the leash. I quitely said to my girlfriend to call him. “Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, Puppy!” By the second puppy he stopped sniffing, looked up, then he realized it was her and went from being scenthound to full blown wiggle monster. He bounced the distance between where he was sniffing and to where she was sitting on the bench, jumped into her arms and showered her with a round of licks. So in that moment not only was he able to recognize her by her voice in an unexpected location but experienced what I would call a sense of joy and excitement over her presence there.
So while I may be guilty of ascribing too much to Darwin’s abilities to experience emotions like joy, love, happiness and excitement, I actually take comfort in that possible dillusion that my dog feels much of what I feel, understands me, even if we will never speak a common language and loves me and knows that I love him and understands the implications of what that is. I fully appreciate science and the rigors that it requires and would be perfectly willing to accept irrefutable proof that non-human animals do not have the capacity to synthesize these emotions, heck I named my beagle Darwin, didn’t I? But there is still that little part of me that is the small boy that hoped and dreamed and yes even prayed at night that he would wake up the next morning and his favorite stuffed teddy bear would be a living, breathing, talking thing that would be his best friend and trusted companion. So forgive me if I end this by saying that my beagle is happily lieing down next to me, knowing that he is loved and loves me for it.
Jennifer Hamilton says
Gosh…love this discussion…it’s so nice to have a rational discussion about, and possible examples of, dog emotions…compared to all of the irrational ones I get with my clients!
JEALOUSY…Isn’t it possible that jealousy could preceed anger as an independent emotion? While most of the perceived dog jealousy examples I have experienced look like anger is involved, there are some where anger doesn’t seem to come into play if the initial jealousy response is met with perceived fairness.
Case in point…if one of my dogs (Dog #1) is engaged in a fun activity and my other dog (Dog #2) comes over to request some petting, it is not unusual for Dog #1, when she notices what’s going on, to drop her fun activity and come over for some petting as well. As long as I pet Dog #1 too, then neither dog seem to display any obvious signs of anger and sit contently with both being petted. If I do not pet Dog #1, or if I stop petting Dog #2 to pet Dog #1, well that’s when the minor anger behaviors appear. Specifically, the one not being pet will head butt my hand, paw slap my body, body block the other dog, and request bark…usually in that escalation order.
So is it possible that jealousy, if countered with perceived fairness, can be absent of anger? Or is it all just a continuum of chemicals and, although I am not outwardly observing anger when the perceived jealousy first begins, it doesn’t mean it’s not still there?
Disclaimer: I realize that all of the above perceptions of my dogs’ emotions are only my perceptions and that they may or may not reflect what my dog is actually thinking or feeling. But hey…I know you’ve all experienced the example above and understand pretty clearly what’s going on…right? LOL.
Jennifer Hamilton says
EMPATHY…I don’t know what was going on in my dog, but it felt like empathy to me.
Twenty years ago, I lived in a foreign country in an apartment on a busy street with a border collie/whippet mix. Each day, my dog required numerous walks and play sessions at the park down the street to keep her high energy in check…starting every day at 7:00am and ending at 10:00pm. She had energy and needed to expend it.
One night, I came down with a terrible flu bug. Not having a phone or any local friends, I had no outlet for my poor dog to be walked or even pottied the next morning. I was so sick, however, I could not get out of bed and had to acknowledge that my dog would not get her much needed exercise and would have to potty in the apartment until I was well enough to walk her outside again. I literally couldn’t get out of bed.
Well, I laid in bed for roughly 36 hours, unable to do anything. And my 2 year old, high-energy border collie mix just laid on top of my body. She did not move, she did not ask to eat, she did not ask to go outside, she did not ask for anything. She just laid on top of my body for 36 hours.
Was this empathy? Or was her body simply responding to a major change in my behavior, body temperature and body chemistry? I don’t know. It never happened again, but I’ve never forgotten the conscious or unconscious sacrifice she made of her basic needs. But isn’t that what empathy is, sacrificing your needs and emotions for those of others? I guess it depends if it was a conscious choice for her or simply a biological reaction to me…right? That I will never know.
When I tell this story, others have thought I was fabricating a bit as most people do not believe a dog can hold it’s urine for 36 hours. Not only have several vets confirmed this fact for me, but have said they see it on a fairly regular basis post surgery. I was surprised to hear that myself until my recent dog went 33 hours post-op without urinating, despite the fact that she was eating and drinking during that time. Dogs are amazing!
There are so many stories I could tell but I’ll try to restrict myself to three.
The first about my cats the late lamented Rougespierre and Katzenjammer. These two neutered male cats had lived peaceably together for seven years with minimal interaction. They each did their own thing and stayed out of the other’s way. Pierre was definitely the dominant cat. As he was nearing the end of his life when his weight had dwindled to seven pounds and he was battling multiple medical conditions I would often find Jammers cuddled up to Pierre while Pierre slept. This is not behavior I ever saw prior to the last few months of Pierre’s life. Pierre was 17.5 years old and Katzenjammer 7 years old. It certainly looked like the younger cat was empathizing with the old and ill cat.
Ranger, the canine companion, accidentally bit me one morning when we were playing tug of war. He grabbed the rope higher up and got my index finger. The damage wasn’t severe because he realized that he didn’t have just the rope and released but he punched a hole in my finger and it hurt. I yelled in pain, checked the wound, decided it was painful but not dangerous and took Ranger for his regular morning walk. The next morning, I went to collect him for his walk and took a ball for a game of fetch rather than tug. He brought me the tug toy and gave it to me very gently. Once I had hold of it he tugged very softly and in a very controlled manner. It was the most gentle tug game I’ve ever played. It seemed to me that he was apologizing for getting carried away the day before and demonstrating that he would be more careful in future.
The dog park we frequent has a smaller area that adjoins the main park. This area is for small dogs and for dogs that are new to dog parking. When the dog(s) in the smaller area are contentedly playing Ranger pays no attention but if there is a dog standing at the fence watching Ranger will check in with that dog regularly sniffing through the chainlink and then going back to playing with his friends before interrupting his play to check in with the other dog. I don’t see any other dog in the park doing this just Ranger. Some of the other humans describe him as being the resident canine social worker. Is it empathy or just a higher level of curiosity than the other dogs have? I don’t know but it certainly looks more like empathy–“I don’t want you to feel totally left out even if you have to be in exile over there.”
All cautions about anthropomorphising aside, I am 100% positive that my dogs do ‘smug’. My eldest is a former kennel dog from a show kennel, and seems to not believe that dogs are allowed on the furniture. She has learned that if she barks out of sight of the other dogs, they will all get up and come to see what she is barking at. While everyone else is milling around, she rushes back into the living room and settles on the dog bed directly in front of the end of the sofa where I do not sit- none of the dogs will jump over her to get on the sofa, and I am occupying the other end. It obvoiusly satisifies some weird sense of order in her pointy collie brain, because I’ve watched her do it 6 times now. I’ve seen dogs learn to bark at the door in order to claim a desired sofa spot before, but she appears to be doing it just to make them move without having any real desire for the spaces they occupy. (Which, if she wanted, she could have simply by moving into them- everyone defers to the Queen.)
Pointy collie brain? hahaha, sounds endearing, like when I call mine “Mr. Ridiculous” isn’t there an endless amount of humor in what animals do? I remember growing up when someone told me about cows all having different personalities, having never lived on a farm, I just thought cows, were cows. Seemed funny to have a whole barn full of different personalities.
I guess the flip side is the Ram story could have gone all horribly wrong, and that understanding behavior can be unpleasant as well, like Trisha’s comment the best thing about… I know one thing, if we had a farm, there wouldn’t be any vermin. I say that half laughing.
I have found that ram shields make rams more aggressive due to frustration because they can’t see well and Jack (White Icelandic Ram) learned to see, do standing butts and charge in spite of it with practice. For Shael (Shaela Shetland Ram), I put a bell (different pitch from the other animals) so we could all hear his approach as well as a ram board (drilled a hole in a wooden board about 14″ wide and 21″ long and 1.5″ deep) attached to his collar by a metal chain so that he can walk but not run, charge or back up too quickly. He can still do a standing butt and breed with the ewes in season which is when he is the most aggressive. The trick is to make it so the chain is not too long so that he walks around it or too short so that it’s like a necklace. You want it just at the height so that he is tripping on it. I have seven small sheep (Shetlands) so the board and chain might have to be a different size for bigger rams. I also don’t want the board to be too heavy which might damage their skeletal structure or make them stronger. This board also works well to prevent animals from jumping over fences. As a smallholder of only 3 years, I don’t have that much experience but this has worked really well for two years after that first year when we tried various shields, separate pens, smaller pens, separate pastures, etc. Hope this is helpful!
It may be anthropomorphizing, but…
I have a fear-aggressive dog. Once he gets to know a person, he’s fine with them and is in fact a total goofball.
We became familiar with a very nice, gentle dogwalker at the park and eventually, I asked this fellow to be my dogwalker. He came to my house (without me there), picked up him, took him to the park. Everything was totally fine and Madison was happy and relaxed.
It came time to go, and of course, Madison did NOT want to leave. The dogwalker called and called him, Madison came close by and the dogwalker made to grab for his collar. Which clearly triggered Madison, because he snapped back and bit him on the hand before running away.
I had to come to the park to pick him up, but here’s the thing: I sweartagawd, Madison moped for TWO whole days after the incident. It wasn’t lingering fear (no tail tuck, no ears back, etc.), just…”crap, i messed up and bit this nice human that i like and i feel bad about it.”
I can also tell when my dog is bored: big, dramatic sighs and groans, antsy behavior, flopping down with a huff and looking pointedly at me.
I found Jennifer’s post on “triad play” interesting. Abby is an “only-dog” by has had many long visits with her friends Ellie and Victor. At first it was very hectic in that Abby and Victor were suitable playmates (same age, size), but Ellie seemed very jealous in that she bayed in Abby’s ear and kept trying to break up their wrestling matches. Over time however, Ellie got use to it and now only raises her voice when they get too wild. She is more like the older sister keeping tabs on her brother. So I guess time and familiarity made this trio work out ok.
Now Abby is in with another set of dogs, Bear the 14 year old chow, and Charlie a 5? year old shelter rescue lab-chow mix. Charlie doesn’t play, no wrestling, not into toys. He is about the same age and size as Abby, but just isn’t “that into her”. Bear is “the queen” but is not as mobile as she was in her younger days. She seems to tolerate the younger dogs. Before I moved in with mom and dad, their two dogs slept on the dog beds right beside their bed (Charlie by my dad, Bear by my Mom, Bear has always been Mom’s dog). Now that I am here, I’m like the Pied Piper, all three dogs tend to hang out with me. Abby tends to sleep on the couch, or in bed with me, but the last two nights, I had all three dogs in my room, two on the floor and one in bed and last night both Charlie and Abby in bed with me, and Bear on the floor by the door. So in this new triad, sleeping space seems to be the “resource” and I have notice my dog Abby being “goldilocks” and helping herself to whatever human or dog bed, couch or chair she wants at that particular moment. Bear can only do the dog beds, and Charlie has some how learned to limit himself to *his* dog bed (not Bear’s) and the bed in the guest room. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Otherwise they all seem to get along, even at human and dog meal times.
I am guilty of “anthromorpholizing” things about my dogs, so I’m not going to jump too far in this other than to say that I think dogs are capable of being emphatic and recognizing changes in your emotional and/or physical state. My brother’s dog stayed with me all night while I was suffering the onset of appendictits (and Jennifer’s flu and her BC/mix reaction to it and the other examples related). It would also explain why dogs make excellent aide dogs for disabled people and therapy dogs for people in hospitals and nursing homes.
I have some time on my hands and have been reading a couple of Stanley Coren’s books which discuss aspects of dog psychology. For a summer project, my 8 year old nephew and I will be conducting “experiments” on the dogs (his pug, Abby and Charlie, we will spare Bear) and doing some of the personality and intelligence tests in Dr. Coren’s book. Hopefully we will learn a little more about our dogs, and my nephew will learn something about how to “do science”.
Alessandro Rosa says
Your statement about cows having different personalities may be the real reason behind why there are those that argue against animals having the abilities to have emotions and a variety of emotions within the same species.
I think it is because once we accept the theory that animals are sentient, feeling creatures, then it becomes a lot more difficult to order the steak or bacon or hamburger. I am a commited omnivore, but the idea of a cow having emotions, and varying personalities no less, elicits the slightest of twinges of guilt in me. Unfortunately, I don’t think that acceptance of that theory would necessarily help in stemming the cruelty either. Just look at what we do to our fellow species mates; and we know that they are aware and feeling creatures.
I think for human’s it is a lot easier to do what we do to animals when we view them as unthinking, unfeeling beasts that are ruled solely by basic survival instinct. I also think that it is important for most humans to feel their own uniqueness, seperate from nature and the animal world. How can something so superior rise from the muck?
I think that another big problem we have is dealing with the translation of the complexities of our “world” to the simpler understanding of that of an animal. A puppy bites another puppy too hard, offended puppy yelps and play ends. Pretty simple. Now add human complexity. Dog sends signal to other dog that they are receptive to play, but one dog’s owner is a lot neurotic and is afraid that the American Bulldog will eat their Pekinese for a snack and “Hey, mom/dad, why the heck are you dragging me away, that dog was begging me to play with him?!” Kind of hard to explain to the dog that they are being discriminated against because of their size and the probably misguided perception of their ferocity or fragility.
How do we explain to our dog that “No, we are not insane or torturing you” because we are forcing your mouth open, jamming our fingers down your throat to retrieved the prized chicken bone that you sniffed out from half a block away, which in an hour or two could be perforating your intestines? Or that no, we are not angry with you or intentionally abandoning you because we leave in the morning, five days a week in order to go to our mind numbing jobs. It is actually that we really love you and it is so that we can keep you in kibble and vet visits, chew toys and cute rain gear that you would probably rather us have stayed home an extra hour to play fetch instead of earning the money to buy it?
In a dogs world, abandoning and isolation isn’t an expression of love, it is a source of fear and possible loss of life. Our world and their world are at odds because of the layered complexity that they don’t comprehend. The question shouldn’t be whether they are feeling things, it should be can we ever get them to understand our bizarre and illogical behavior. And at best, a lot of what we do isn’t logical. We love our kids, so we work 14 hours a day, hardly ever see or interact with them in order to give them “a better life.” Then hire others to care for them and teach them the basic skills in life. To a dog, that probably would just seem pretty silly.
Anthropomorphizing is not bad. As Marc Bekoff states (if you haven’t noticed, he’s my latest hero and author of newly released ‘Wild Justice’) we are human so naturally we observe the world from a human point of view. I think more the danger is not understanding what motivates animals, rather than being afraid of assigning them human traits. I use the word ‘human’ loosely – science is showing that animals do indeed have societies that depend on moral codes and which often show that members behave in altruistic ways – that is – helping others with no ostensible reward. How can this not be recognized as empathy? Some members of some species have even showed empathy to members of other species.
We have to use language to describe animals because that’s how we communicate. I’ve seen one dog “lord it over” another. I’ve seen a dog get angry at an insect – growling at a mosquito disturbing her sleep. I’ve seen animals mourn the loss of loved ones (and as with humans, sometimes die shortly afterward suddenly) and I’ve watched my own dog play peacekeeper and diplomat during play with a group of dogs. I’ve seen my dogs’ reaction to injustice, (read the book, justice exists for animals) Did you catch the video on UTube of one dog dragging another to safety on a multi lane freeway after it had been hit by a car? If these are not examples of empathy, what are?
What is the big deal about admitting that animals have feelings? I think many dog trainers do a disservice to animals by teaching humans that they are creatures capable of only reacting to environmental rewards and punishments.
Liz F. says
I think that how humans act on their understanding of the emotions of animals is what makes this such an important topic.
Thanks, Alessandro, for bringing this up in your recent, insightful comment. It could be that education about all animals might lead people to reconsider their diets. Or, if people knew the real emotional consequences of leaving a pet for as much time as many do, then perhaps we would make different choices… It is, after all, our responsibility to make the most informed choices possible.
I agree with Beth, too, saying that it’s “.. a disservice to animals to teach humans that they [animals] are creatures capable of only reacting to environmental rewards and punishments.” And totally examining an animal’s motivation is probably more important then whether or not we assign them a generic human trait. It gets risky only when we assign an animal human traits without considering anything else, neglecting whatever is different from us.
Triads: Very interesting observation, Jennifer. Made me recall my triad experiences, what worked and what didn’t. I understand that in a professional dog play environment cautious is best, but I think three dogs with compatible ‘personalities’ can coexist and thrive. What is ‘personality’? For me, it is the tone of the behaviors (and emotions) a dogs exhibits most frequently and willingly. Two silly, clownish, and up-beat females with one laid-back, go-with-the-flow male seemed to work the best for me. But I know plenty of bad trios, too, and maybe my dogs weren’t as pleased as I thought, this leaves me with eyebrows raised…
I think some dogs wear their emotions on their forelegs, so to speak, while others can be much more reserved. Is emotional control possible? Or are dogs just assailed with emotion as it hits?
Great reading list additions, too, thanks!
Interesting, Alessandro My own eating habits changed, mainly after watching Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat TV show, which also lead to vegan foods, and eventually the China Study book, mainly the difference between animal and vegetable proteins. I’m not completely vegan or vegetarian for that matter, but I do now focus more on the vegetable part of my diet, for some reason vegan recipes are a great source of personal sastisfaction, okay, not some reason, they make me feel better.
Likewise, behavioral modification vs. popular culture dog training. Most recently these very interesting posts about not just that dogs/animals think, but how they think. The thing I found with people who live and raise animals farms, is they have that everyday relationship with many animals, all day long. There I would imagine those personality differences would be obvious, and absolutlely necessary, even more reason to think that pet owner relationship can be enhanced by understanding emotions, both ours and theirs.
Sue T. says
I used (what I perceived as) jealousy in training my young mix-breed, Sammie. He is a cautious type, who had terrible fear issues as a young puppy. We started agility training when he was about 5 months old, and I learned right away that he really responded to praise, big praise. He was coming right along on the other obstacles, but absolutely hated the tippy boards, in preparation for the teeter. We took it slowly and he gradually became brave enough to get on the low teeter. Then he became fairly confident and would go across it without food luring. Major accomplishment!
However, someone accidentally sent him across the full-height teeter one day and he freaked out. I spent a full year working with him on this obstacle and could not get his confidence level back up to where it was when he had his big fright. He simply refused the obstacle, and I could only get him across if I kept his lead on and lured with especially high-value treats, and even then he shook the entire way across. Then one day a friend and I were at the agility field practicing and decided to try a different technique.
It’s fairly common in agility training to allow young dogs to watch a more accomplished dog on an obstacle to help build drive. So we sent her older border collie over the teeter again and again and made a HUGE fuss over her, clapping and telling her what a good dog she was while I held Sammie and made him watch. After a half dozen times, he was beside himself wanting that attention, too. So I led him to the teeter and he hopped right on it and over, like see? she’s not so great, I can do this, too! We made a super-fuss over him, and he got a treat jackpot. Ever since that day, I’ve never had a problem with him refusing the teeter in practice or at a trial.
My common sense tells me he was jealous and wanted the attention we were giving to the other dog, and it was motivation enough to plow through his fear.
I’m late to comment, but have to chime in with a question for anyone who is reading. If we accept that dogs can feel jealousy, guilt, and pride, does that mean that the owners who insist that their dog tore up the sofa as revenge for being scolded might be right? Feeling jealousy or pride seems to indicate a broader understanding of their world and a longer memory than anger or joy does. They aren’t “in the moment” emotions, they require some connections to be made.
I’m torn. On one hand, I think that I recognize secondary emotions in my dog, but I have a hard time believing that dogs can plot and scheme and to me it seems like if you accept one premises (that dogs can feel pride for example) then the other (that a dog can take revenge) is similar enough to follow.
This is a great discussion… can we all just quit our jobs and continue this conversation for a couple of weeks? Almost every comment generates a question I’d love to explore more…. But I’ve set a timer (at least metaphorically), so here are some responses to some of your fascinating comments. (And please, keep them coming!)
First, I love Holly’s comment that the more she learns, the less she knows. Ditto, I can’t agree more. Sometimes I stand up in front of a crowd the morning of a seminar and think “What the heck am I doing here? I hardly know ANYTHING.” But then I remind myself that we are all in this together, and that this is a chance to learn more… the best part of seminars for me without question. (And part of what I love about your comments here.)
But, back to your comments: Jennifer raises a fascinating question… about the method of training and whether it influences the emotion of guilt or shame in a dog. I find myself first trying to find an answer in human analogies: does a human have to be punished to feel shame or guilt? I’m not sure we do, but am not sure. (I suspect there is a lot in the psych literature about this, anyone know this literature?) I can see why punishment could be a common component of guilt or shame, but is it possible to experience shame without any punishment? For example, what if we practiced something over and over and mastered it for a performance, say a spelling competition or concert, and then messed up horribly (or, for that matter, an agility or herding trial)?. Couldn’t we feel shame without any corrections from another? That brings up the question of whether shame and guilt are the same emotions. Some people argue that shame is more about an internal evaluation of the self, and requires no learning, while ‘guilt’ is about actions or one’s external relations to other and has to be learned in some way. However, clearly the lines between them are pretty fuzzy.
AND, just to stir the pot, it also brings up the emotion of ’embarrassment,’ which seems to me to be most closely related to shame rather than guilt. I am truly tempted to say that I’ve seen animals who at least looked embarrassed.. I remember an adolescent Arabian stallion who was running circles around a large pen, head and tail up, catching everyone’s attention, humans and other horses alike. I was focused on his power and beauty, (can’t tell you what the horses were thinking!) when he tripped, sprawled like a fool and came up with a completely different affect. He was a light colored horse, just turning from foal dark grey to cream white, and honestly and truly, I swear his head turned pinkish and it looked like he was blushing. Maybe it was simply from the fall, but all of us watching kept saying “did you see that?” because none of us had ever heard of a horse blushing before. I honestly don’t know that it is possible, or if our brains were playing tricks on us because he looked so profoundly embarrassed when he got up.
I could go on forever (sorry) but I have time for just one more comment, then I’ll take this up again later in a day or two. I did want to respond to Katie’s excellent point that the primary problem with most people talking about emotions in animals is not whether they have them or not, but the common problem of them making mis-attributions about them (“He’s mad at me, that’s why he peed on the carpet.”) I could not agree more that people often get into trouble about this (I wrote in the last Chronicle article, for example, that people most commonly miss overt signs of fear, but attribute guilt and anger when it is completely inappropriate.) However, I am not in the camp that the way to counter this is to argue that animals don’t have emotions, rather I think we need to guide people into thoughtful considerations of which emotions we know are shared, which emotions might not be, and how to regulate our OWN emotions around the animals we love. (Ah! There’s the rub!)
Jennifer Hamilton says
I don’t know whether shame or guilt can exist without punishment in people, but at a minimum it seems environmental influences must play a factor in the likelihood of the emotion or its intensity. For example children raised in abusive environments are more prone to feelings of shame or guilt as adults. I suspect their brains may have developed differently. And children who are rewarded for trying new things, rather than only being rewarded once they master them, are probably less likely to feel shame or guilt when something they try is not successful. Seems basic laws of learning, and techniques for teaching, would influence when emotions present themselves and at what level of intensity. Whether dogs have those emotions or not is another question.
Trisha said: “does a human have to be punished to feel shame or guilt?”
Does punishment have to be inflicted by someone else? Would the disappointment of letting a loved one down or failing to live up to expectations be self-inflicted punishment and lead to guilt/shame?
Jennnifer Hamilton says
Karen London’s Blog today on Bark (http://www.thebark.com/content/do-dogs-feel-regret) discusses the emotion of regret. In it, she quotes another scientist as defining regret as “the recognition of a missed opportunity”. If that’s the definition of regret, I’m starting to rethink my perceptions about dogs and regret.
Previously, I considered regret to be more contemplative then just a missed opportunity. But if regret is as simple as recognition of a missed opportunity, then I suspect most of us see it frequently when our dogs get the “oopsy, try again” non reward marker. While many times my dog just jumps right in and gives it another try, there are other times where I get that look of “oh crap, I missed it again, dang it”. While I do not have a working herding dog, I’m sure those that do must see it at times when the wrong movement is made (or command given) and the dog gives that look of “oh crap, I just made my job a lot harder when it didn’t need to be”. That seems like a “recognition of a missed opportunity to me”. I also see that look when one dog gobbles up something on the floor before another one can get to it. Sometimes the dog who got left out will look up at you with that look that says, “crap, I missed my opportunity…can you give me another one”.
I can’t tell anyone what that “look” looks like, but I know it when I see it. And it doesn’t happen with all missed opportunities, but it definetly materializes with some of them. What does everybody else think?
P.S. Kudos to you, Trisha, for having Karen recommend your book at the end of her blog. If I didn’t already own multiple copies, I would have immediately gone out and bought it.
Laura Green says
I live in a house with three dogs. I have definitely witnessed moments between the three that I would label jealousy or pride. When the oldest of the three and the first one acquired sees either of the other two receiving attention – from me, a friend, or even a stranger – he invariably sidles up, pushing his way between the other dog and the person, and (as I see it) uses his body to wedge apart the two. He will then proceed to soak up some of the attention for himself, before once again wandering away. He does this on a regular basis. Periodically, he will do the same between a friend and a strange dog. The only answer I can give, other than jealousy, for this behavior is resource guarding, as a sort. If he sees “attention and petting” as a resource, then, in essence he is attempting to guard it for himself.
As for pride, my second dog displays what I believe to be an expression of pride. Whenever he does something I find brillant and heavily reward for, he will begin to prance about. He will continue the prancing beyond the immediate prasie and reward. I have recorded the prancing behavior for up to five minutes beyond the original moment. As for the prancing, itself, it is an obvious difference outside of his normal behaviors and appearance. I am definitely proud of him at these moments and have wondered whether the prancing is his reaction to me or something unto himself. The length of the behavior, even after I have moved past it, makes me more assured that this behavior/emotion is unique unto himself and his view of hisself in the world at large.
I love to see deeper study into the secondary emotions make the mainstream scientific community.