There has long been a great debate as to whether or not dogs have emotions.
Some behavioral experts say absolutely not. One reason for this is the fact that no one has devised a way to measure or quantify our pets’ emotions. Others believe that our canine friends are capable of feeling complex emotions such as jealousy, pride, love and fear.
I don’t know about you, but I do believe that dogs of all ages have emotions. I think the proof is in watching your puppy. Every dog I have ever owned has been able to express themselves clearly in many situations. It is not hard to tell when my puppy is happy, excited, anxious or sad. Therefore, I am a firm believer in the fact that canines do experience emotions. Are you?
Let’s start by defining emotions. For the purpose of this article, we will think of emotions as the force that gives dogs an impulse to act in response to a situation and how they feel once they have reacted.
Consider what happens when your dog is afraid. The emotion of fear can cause different reactions among different animals. One reaction may be to become defensive. Another may have the dog cowering.
According to experts at the Purina site, emotions may be divided into positive or negative feelings and have rising or decreasing scales. You have probably witnessed varying degrees of happiness or fear in your dog.
Recent research has shown that all mammals – that includes dogs – have seven basic emotional systems that attribute to their ability to react to information. These include a seeking system, which defines the drive to find food, a play system and care system that they display when rearing their offspring and making social attachments and a fear system that allows the dog to respond to events that are unfamiliar.
While the degree of emotion may be different among humans and canines, the fact is that dog behavior has shown that puppies do have basic emotions that allow them to feel sad, angry, happy or fearful.
Consider a situation in which your dog may become jealous. Perhaps you are paying more attention to one dog than another or you have just brought a new dog into your home. The odds are favorable that your dog is going to display some sort of emotion at having to take the back seat to a newcomer.
Dr. Friederike Range from the University of Vienna’s neurobiology department has proven that dogs are capable of feeling intense jealously when they see that they are treated unfairly compared with other dogs. “Dogs show a strong aversion to inequity,” she said.
Peter Neville, a consultant with the Centre for Applied Pet Ethology, advocates that emotions are essential to a dog’s ability to learn.
Dr. Paul Morris, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who studies animal emotions, said, “We are learning that dogs…are far more emotionally complex than we ever realized. They can suffer simple forms of many emotions we once thought only primates could experience.”
Open your heart to a puppy and I’m betting you will soon be convinced that your dog is quite capable of experiencing emotions. After all, why do you think he or she insists on licking your face or hand? Could it be that they are telling you they love you?