Dogs Simple Association and Emotion

Well here is my theory about canine emotion compared to human emotion. If you look at the evolution of the mammalian brain you will notice that we all have evolved the same structures in the oldest parts of the brain see fig below.

This is not a shock.. people forget that we are all animals so, surprise we have all evolved in a similar fashion. Also, it is important to note that studies using fMRI and other techniques are finding that dog are highly emotional and far more intelligent then some have thought.

An article I found with a quick google search is a good example:

Brain Scans Show Striking Similarities Between Dogs and Humans

My theory is that dogs just like humans have biochemical messages that come from the body and brain and either excite or depress the nervous system. There are interesting effects like, homeostasis, changes in threshold and rebound, to name a few but, the point is that dogs and humans have the same “hard wiring”.  The major difference seem to be the new part of our least from and evolutionary perspective that allows us to think really complex sometime very useful and sometimes just over complicating things. Dogs have yet to develop this new brain so one could say they don’t over complicate things like we do. They must experience pure emotion similar to ours. It also means that they can not solve a calculus prof but, who really wants to do that anyway 🙂 no what it means is that we are complicated but that does not mean dogs are simple.

The answer to many of my questions seems to be dependent on how much influence the “over complicating parts” of your brain has on emotion. I came across this and it may help.

When I look at this I asked myself does a dog have the same equipment? If you put the same fuel in the same engine you get the same result? The answer is of course yes within given parameters/

Some hypotheses that I have derived from this little experience:

A. Dogs are not only emotional creatures that are almost all emotional and lack the highest brain functions that we use to inhibit our emotions.

B. I have suggested that dogs learn episodically, These findings seem to support that conclusion. ie.. have you even been in a traumatic event? do you remember it in a slow motion movie kind of a way?  sometimes these memories manifest in nightmares that are like little horror movies that play over and over in your head. Talking about similarities between dogs and people… have you ever smelled something and suddenly had and emotional reaction?

C. for memory is would be best to create an episode with and emotional component… positive please.

D. Behavioural problems are complicated in that dogs do not have our higher brain function so, the solution needs to be tied to an experience with overwhelming positive emotions. While working with the dog to “calm” or break the old brain emotional flooding.

Dogs must see the world as an emotional picture and while we have the ability to inhibit and organize our world the dog must see the situation and context combined with raw emotion. This is not a simple association.

Look at it this way simple association works in teaching a dog because it is difficult to learn in an emotional state. Think about when your dog gets to excited.. to aggressive? people say the don’t listen to me.. well of course not. Have you ever tried to speak in front of a lot of people, take a difficult test that you were afraid of? whatever, your fear maybe .. even with your advance thinking apparatus sometime emotional states takes over, so imagine what it would be like to have a limited ability to inhibit emotion?

so, simple association works in training because it is simple not because your dog is simple.

If all else fails look at it this way… we don’t have any idea how human emotions or intelligence really work so, how could we be so bold as to claim that we understand other animals ?

So, when your training your dog and something doesn’t go right.. instead of thinking “stupid dog” try saying oh “emotional dog” how can I work with this an communicate effectively with my dog.  Also, try to remember that even with you, if you are in an emotional state simple is good however, that does not mean you are simple. I can also see how studying dogs and their emotions will help us better treat people with such things as OCD, PTSS and similar concerns. Since in these states we seem to lose our ability of higher cognitive function and could be experiencing the world just like our dog?

Is it possible that I am wrong about all this? of course it is but, hey give it some thought.


Motley Dog

Here is a fun thing to think about.


Dog trainers seem to love this word… it is quite a word. If you are not trying to impress people you might say that you are attributing you dogs behavior with an emotion that we don’t think they are capable of:

Here are a couple of things I would like you to research:

Psychology is the science of predicting behavior and behavior is general, yes emotion is a behavior but, a good psychologist or psychiatrist will let you know that we do not understand human emotion.

If we do not understand human emotion might investigate the numerous corrections the “Animal Behaviorist” have had to make over the years regrading emotion, and other human like characteristics that hey…. they now are beginning to realize animals are capable of..

One of my all time favorites is … don’t anthropomorphize behavior it will confuse the dog the the person training the dog. It is true that if you come off to your dog as a less the credible leader they will push the boundaries and not listen to a word you say.. even if they like you.  This is why at Motley we teach leadership. However, enjoy your dog have whatever relationship you want. If you want to run around thinking your dog is jealous who are we to tell you that you are wrong… just like a person right. We have no idea what jealousy is in humans or animals. Aint psychology fun.

Dog are not simple association creatures, we have no idea what emotional or cognitive range they have so…. love each other have a good time. We are here to help if either of you get confused.. 🙂