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Multifaceted Psyche of Dogs

Like most individuals, I’ve always wanted a dog but convincing your parents for the same proves to be a task. What followed after countless pleas and discussions about how gigantic of a responsibility it is, my parents eventually gave into the idea. Bringing up a dog is no less than bringing up a newborn. There are countless things that need to be kept in mind and the mere thought of losing it one day terrifies me just like any other pet owner. However, the human-dog relationship is unlike any other relationship in the world. The happiness of coming home to a loyal companion surpasses that of fear. Nothing feels better than coming home from a bad day at work to someone who, despite all your flaws, will shower you with the most affection and love, every single day.

History of Dogs and their Emotions- Centuries ago, it was assumed that dogs had tremendously abundant mental lives with emotions and feelings, similar to that of humans. Not only this but they could understand human language. Although, as things began progressing due to the rise of science, people now began to understand the law of physics and mechanics and how we could build complex machines. Not only this but humans were also comprehending how living things were also controlled by systems that obeyed certain chemical processes and mechanical instructions.

Someone who strongly believed this was the French Philosopher and Scientist, René Descartes strongly agreed with this. Descartes suggested that dogs were some kind of machine and how they didn’t have the ability to think but could be programmed to perform certain activities. These philosophers could simply say that when a dog snaps, barks or wags the tail, they do not feel but just act because it is programmed to do so.

Now since we have broader knowledge, we understand how dogs have the same brain structure that inculcates emotions in humans. They have similar hormones and experience the same chemical changes which humans undergo during emotional states. Adding to that, they even have the hormone oxytocin which is associated with the feeling of love and affection.

Research has shown that the hyper-sociability found in dogs could be associated with the same gene that people with the developmental disorder- Williams- Beuren syndrome, are friendly and trusting. Having a pet is truly a blessing. They not only provide us with companionship and affection but science has proven that they are also known for various health benefits like reducing our stress levels, providing emotional and mental aid and contributing to the development of a child.

Animal Therapy and its benefits

Apart from this, dog therapy has proven to have significant health benefits and indeed enhance mood. Pet therapy or animal therapy is the utilisation of animals to help individuals manage physical or mental disabilities. Dogs and cats are more common service dogs but other animals like horses, guinea pigs, birds could also help just as much. So many individuals can truly benefit from animal therapy. For example, young children battling cancer, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, people with dementia, cardiovascular diseases etc.

These animals are not only comforting but can also warn someone if one is in danger, or carry out actions for people with specific disorders. These animals are coached by various experts to supply the required support and protection to their owners. Individuals suffering from mental health issues are advised by professionals to keep themselves physically active. Since dogs are immensely active and playful, they coerce their owners to go for walks and runs which in return helps the individuals. Seizure alert dogs could warn their owners by either pawing at them, behaving restlessly, circling or pacing or even through direct eye contact. Dogs are also known to predict epileptic seizures 45 minutes prior.

It must be noted that pet therapy has several benefits but cannot replace other treatments. As humans, we express our emotions in so many various ways. When we’re ecstatic about something, we grin. When something bothers us, we cry or feel anxious and when we’re irritated, we tend to lash out at people. Just like us, dogs also emote negatively or positively in various ways through their body language. Dogs have the emotional competence of toddlers between 2-2.5 years of age and hence experience anger, anxiety, joy etc.

But have you ever wondered how dogs portray their emotions and affection?

As pet owners, it is immensely important to provide your dog with all necessary facilities and keep them happy since they do not ask for much. Dogs show happiness by being in a relaxed state with their mouths open. Relaxed ears that are not pulled back due to alertness. A wagging tail with a confident posture also indicates signs of happiness in a dog. Rolling over Asking for belly rubs also shows that the dog trusts the human. Apart from this, dogs who have a healthy appetite, are excited to go outdoors to play or for a walk, lean into the body are also signs of joy that can be found in the dog.

Different emotions dogs portray

Anxiety doesn’t only affect humans but many animals too. Most often, people don’t believe how dogs could be anxious as well. An anxious dog usually barks or growls in the absence of the owner, shivers out of nervousness, urinates often, hiding or cowering away from people or things, refusing to eat, self harm by either kicking or chewing themselves, destructive behaviour.

The more common ways dogs emote anger are growling, avoiding eye contact. The other ways in which dogs display anger are walking away, rolling their eyes at the owner, being less affectionate, flattened ears, repetitive pawing, urinating on the owner’s personal belongings, not obeying any personal commands, tucking the tail between the legs. Observing something keenly, barking or lunging, body leaning forward, stiff body posture, forward ears, tense tail are some indicators of a dog being alert.

Do dogs feel guilty?

All along we thought that the look after ripping furniture is the look of guilt along with their puppy eyes, cowering away, refusing eye contact. However, it is known that dogs sense the emotions that we portray after doing something that they shouldn’t have done and that emotion is fear. Cowering-showing the whites of their eyes, licking the air are all signs of fear. Guilt is exceedingly rare in animals because it is a secondary emotion that demands cognitive sophistication because self consciousness may not even prevail in animals.

For us, a pet is just a small part of our lives but for them, we are the centre of their universe. There may be times where our pets get on our nerves but as pet owners, we need to be patient with them and understand that they cannot speak and communicate with us as we do. Along with this, it is our responsibility to provide them with a safe and secure environment and all the necessities. A pet wants nothing more than affection from us and truly doesn't ask for much other than that.

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