“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.” – Franklin P. Jones
There are so many amazing things we know about dogs, and yet we are learning more about them every day. Most of us can’t imagine life without a dog……or dogs in my case!
The love they smother us with every day in tangible. Their playfulness makes us laugh out loud like children and their companionship is so comforting and addictive we cannot image being without them. What more do we really need to know?
“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” ~ Orhan Pamuk
Through science, we have learned so much but there is another viable way to determine what a dog is thinking and why; non-biased observation.
We cannot in fact relegate animal thought to instinct. As humans, with intellect we have the ability to learn and reason. Dogs have shown these capabilities as well because dogs can cope with a wide variety of issues and problems. If they only responded by instinct, it would require a tremendous amount of hard-wiring if the solution to each problem were pre-programmed. So, dogs can learn and reason!
Here are ten amazing observations and facts about “Man’s Best Friend”:
1. DOGS ARE THE MOST DIVERSE SPECIES ON THE PLANET.
There are over 600 breeds of dogs, and they come in every shape and size. Dogs are the single most genetically diverse species on earth; largely thanks to human-imposed selective breeding, the vast array of dog breed surpasses any other creature.
We’ve bred them small enough to fit in a purse and large enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a pony! And, since the roughly 30,000 to 100,000 years since the origin of dogs, we’ve created a remarkably weird creature.
Diverse beyond imagination yet they are all remarkably similar in retaining the characteristics of their species – Canis familiaris, because their DNA is nearly identical. And, it turns out that only a handful of known genes affect the size and appearance of dogs.
2. DOGS UNDERSTAND US.
Dogs, more than any other species, have the ability to understand and communicate with humans as they are uniquely attuned to our emotions and behaviors.
These abilities are not possessed by the dog’s closest canine relative, the wolf, nor by other highly intelligent mammals such as chimpanzees, who shared 99% of our DNA! Their abilities actually parallel some of the social-cognitive skills of human children.
3. DOGS CAN READ OUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS.
Dogs really do know what that big smile or frustrated frown on your face means! There is solid scientific evidence that humans aren’t the only ones who can understand and recognize body language and the emotional facial expressions in another species.
In new research that was published in the journal ‘Learning & Behavior’, it was found that dogs behave differently when shown pictures of emotional human faces displaying emotions such as anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise and disgust. When they were shown facial expressions like anger, fear and happiness, the dogs heart rates rose.
Because dogs have been bred as human companions for thousands of years they have adapted a deep connection with people – something that does not seem to happen with dogs close ancestor, the wolf.
4. DOGS ARE IMAGINATIVE AND CAN PRETEND.
A young male Shepherd lab mix had been given to an inactive, elderly couple, who also owned and inactive, elderly female dog. He had no one to play with. The young dog often seemed at a loss, like a young person with no friends and nothing to do.
One day he was seen by himself on a hillside near the house where he was staying, running fast, chasing something with his nose to the ground, tail high and waving! He repeated this many times, circling the same hill. But there was nothing there. The entire event had been a fantasy. This boy was just pretending out of boredom.
5. DOGS WEIGH ALTERNATIVES AND MAKE DECISIONS.
Every day, a young female dog took a walk with her owner and two other dogs, and every day they stopped at a river, where the young female invariably had a swim.
One day, however, something off the trail had drawn the young female away from the group, so that when the others stopped at the river, she wasn’t with them. They turned to go home, as was their custom, and had gone about 80 feet down the trail when the young female, hot and ready for her daily bath, burst out of the bushes halfway between them and the river.
It was too late – they were leaving, and she had missed her swim. Poised beside the trail, she first looked to the right after her group, then looked to the left at the river, then looked to the right the second time then looked once more at the water, made an instant decision and rushed full speed up the trail to the river, plunged in, quickly swim a few strokes, then turned back to the bank, leaped out, and tore after her group, not stopping to shake until she caught up with them.
6. DOGS ARE INTELLIGENT.
Behavioral scientists have discovered that dogs can learn around 165 words which is similar to a two-year-old child, including signals and gestures. Some have learned in excess of 250 or more! And others have exhibited stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity and are reminders they’re closer to humans than we thought.
David Hartwig became famous after he had decided to take a puppy home to give to his wife as a Christmas present. The dog’s name was Skidboot! Skidboot have the kind of intelligence that isn’t common in every dog.
He proved to be one of the smartest dogs ever caught on camera, performing tricks that amazed audiences all over the U.S. His natural love of performing, combined with his bond with David made Skidboot famous.
David was asked how many tricks Skidboot knew. “Well, I never did like to call them tricks. He didn’t really do a trick. He just did what I said. I never did count, he was still trying to learn new tricks till his dying day. He is obsessive about trying to please me. He was constantly trying to be a human being. He just liked the challenge.
You know that “sneaking up on the ball and backing away” thing he became famous for? David would tell Skidboot, “Now on the count of three I want you to go fetch that ball.” After David would throw the ball he would count, “one, two, 11, 12, 13, 26…” but Skidboot wouldn’t retrieve the ball until David said the number three.
7. DOGS FALL IN LOVE.
I go into depth on this topic on my blog post “Do Dogs Fall in Love?” But suffice it to say, we know falling in love is not for humans alone.
Dogs have the hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states. Canine couples show love, affection and warmth to one another all the time and show it in many ways: their waqging tales, their kisses there cuddling and nuzzling and often napping and sleeping together.
When it comes to dogs loving their owners, cognitive scientists at Duke University, reported, “dogs have taken advantage of our parental sensitivities, using behaviors such as staring into our eyes to generate feelings of social reward and to caretaking behavior.”
So, in other words, dogs have developed the same kind of love that parents feel for their children.
8. DOGS GRIEVE AND HAVE THEIR HEARTS BROKEN.
There are numerous documented cases of dogs mourning the death of their owner. Such was the case of the Akita named Hachiko who is renowned in Japan for walking to the local train station on his owners commuting schedule for 10 years after he died.
Many other animals including elephants, have demonstrated grief over the death of a member of the pack or herd. Check out my blog, “When Dog’s Grieve – Five Ways to Comfort Your Pet.
9. DOGS SERVE AND PROTECT US.
There are at least a dozen different specializations for service dogs. From medical alert dogs for seizures, allergies, diabetes, etc., seeing-eye dogs, hearing dogs for the deaf, wheelchair assistance dogs, psychiatric service dogs for conditions such as PTSD, emotional support dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, disaster relief dogs, military and police dogs, search and rescue dogs. Dogs can even detect cancer with their noses.
10. DOGS ARE UNSUNG HEROS!
A missing toddler was found safe and well in the Australian bush after being guarded from harm by his family’s faithful German Shepard for 14 hours. The shepherd, Dasher, was found by the two-year-old when rescuers tracked them down in the woods four kilometers from his mother’s home.
When Gareth Jones got his wheelchair stuck in the middle of muddy field, he found himself unable to move. The former soldier’s service dog appropriately named Hero was ready to answer the call by dutifully pulling the rope Jones threw to him until the wheelchair was pulled free. Said Jones, “he didn’t let go until I was clear. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Look into a dog’s eyes and you will see the definition of unconditional love that is not found in any other species. Dogs steal our hearts, become our dearest friends, even work for us and save our lives in more ways than we can count! Dogs have been our companions for more than 10,000 years. Cherish the time you share, however short.
“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” ~ Charles De Gaulle