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Do Dogs Have Emotions?

When you see your dog wagging his tail in excitement for the treat you are about to give him, is he really excited or is it a just a conditioned response on your dogís part? The question, if animals, in particular, feel emotions is age-old. Depending on whom you ask, youíll undoubtedly receive an array of answers.

Joyful Expression

For anyone who has ever owned a dog, their response would surely be, ďAbsolutely, yes dogs do have emotions.Ē You canít deny dogs show a wide range of reactions that mimic the look and feel of emotion. Is there any question that dogs have strong bonds with their owners? They pour affection to the owners that resemble our definition of love in every way. Dogs seem to show happiness and joy when their owner returns home after being away. Dogs express enthusiasm when they are taken for an outdoor adventure. There is a twinkle in the dogís eyes; an undeniable eagerness in their body language that holds a strong argument for those believing dogs indeed have emotions. Dogs display pleasure after learning they have satisfied their owner by accomplishing a new skill, command or request.

Depressed Expression

Contrary to all the displays of joy dogs tend to share, there are times a dog may show signs of sadness and depression. Have you seen a dogís response after his main caregiver passes away? The dog mopes around, whimpers, is often inactive and may suffer loss of appetite Ė many of the textbook signs of severe depression.

Signs of Abuse

Look at an abused dog and youíll see a deep sadness, loss of confidence and you can sense the emptiness they must be feeling. Dogs often exhibit signs of fear even when they havenít been abused. Abuse though, increases a behavior typical of someone who is frightened and depressed.

Scientific Argument

While itís not be easy to deny dogs do react in ways commonly linked to emotions, scientists are not on board. Without a clear scientific consensus that supports an animalís ability to show emotion, they are unable to validate it one way or another. This lack of validation is due to the fact that dogs donít talk and interact with the answers the scientists need. The question is, do dogs understands the meaning of feelings and are the dogsí reactions truly connected to the thoughts of the dog knowing he is sad? In the world of science, it is believed that dogs have the ability to respond to scenarios with actions that appear similar to emotions, but in fact, it is a learned response needed for survival.

Animal Advocacy

Activist and some scientists look at another form of the question - if dogs understand feelings and respond because of feelings, while not proven, it is also not dis-proven. More often, society is accepting that animals, especially dogs do have feelings. Itís become obvious by the many animal activist organizations, and media campaigns supporting the rights of animals. Campaigns are masterfully designed to tug at the emotions of people by showing sad, fearful animals in obvious need of help. The cameras capture a certain sadness in the animalsí eyes as a spokesperson reveals staggering statistics of abuse, neglect and demise. Animal activist firmly believe animals do have feelings and they believe enough to become an advocate for the rights animal rights.

Whether or not the actions of dogs are connected to complex thoughts resembling human emotions, may never be known. What we do know is that dogs have a strong bond with their owners. Dogs do express signs of love, loyalty, excitement, happiness and sadness and they do react and respond to their ownerís feelings.

Dr. Susan Wright DMV is a practicing veterinarian of more than 10 years, a writer and serves as a dog bark collar expert. Susan loves dogs both professionally and personally as exhibited by her wide interest that ranges from article writing to entertainment mediums.


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