There are so many opinions these days on which emotions our pets can actually feel. It would sometimes appear that they can convey guilt, happiness, sadness, indifference, and just about every other human emotion. But the truth is, as far as science can understand (and I’ll admit I cannot figure out how scientists come to these conclusions) dogs do feel emotions, such as happiness, grief, anxiety and any other emotion you can imagine would come in handy in the wild. Jealousy, pride and guilt are examples of secondary emotions that animals simply do not feel. It always cracks me up when people tell me their dog looked guilty. Dogs are very smart animals. What you are most likely seeing is a learned behaviour pertaining to action and reaction. If Fifi poops on the rug and gets in trouble, she may learn over time and more accidents that if she looks away, and behaves in a certain manner, her punishment is not as harsh. This is not the same as guilt, this is self preservation!
The one emotion that I can guarantee dogs feel is love. There are many stories of dogs who stick with each other through thick and thin, such as a seeing dog behaving as his blind friends eyes, or a large dog protecting his smaller companion. I have even seen video of a dog who was hit by a car being dragged off the highway by his companion. (you can see the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofpYRITtLSg)
I can attest to the fact that my dogs love one another. Two years ago we had to say goodbye to our beloved 10 year old german shepherd Maxi. That evening, after the deed was done, our 4 year old golden retriever lay out on Maxi’s bed. This in itself was strange behaviour, because in the 4 years we had owned Oscar, he never set foot (or paw as the case may be) on her bed. He had his own bed. Well that night as he lay out on her bed, I realized he was just lying flat. I don’t know how to better describe it. He was not resting, or trying to sleep, it was almost as though he was breathing in her scent or her essence and somehow saying goodbye. Within one week of Maxi’s death, the entire length of Oscar’s back turned white, and it remains that way to this day. Lucky for him, he is blonde or he would look like the worlds biggest skunk.
Fast forward a few weeks and we adopted Kahshe to round out our family once more. While initially, Oscar found her to be an immature pain in the tail, literally, they gradually bonded. The one time we separated them and my husband took Kahshe up north with him, they were both despondent. (The dogs not my husband!) Their joy upon reconciling was quite evident. It kind of reminded me of our twin boys when they have spent a day apart.
There are days, when Kahshe, being 5 years younger than Oscar will drive him crazy, but come the night, it is very rare for them to be sleeping apart. I have no doubt that when the day finally comes that we have to say goodbye to Oscar, not only will I have to deal with my own grief and that of my children, but I will probably be dealing with a grieving german shepherd as well.
You can read more about dog’s and their emotional states in our March newsletter at http://www.petbreederconnection.com