The Psychology of Dogs

Dogs are commonly known as the faithful companions of both men and women, and they can be immensely loyal, loving, and protective of their human families. Although they are one of the most popular types of pet, they are still somewhat of a mystery to those who love them. Anyone who owns a dog has likely wondered what they think about the people who care for them and what, if anything, they are trying to say when they bark. Although humans may never definitively know the answers to these questions, there are those who are dedicated to studying the psychology of dogs so that everyone can better understand “man’s best friend.”

Dogs and Dreaming

It isn’t uncommon for dogs to twitch, move their paws, or jerk their bodies when they’re asleep. It’s not hard to imagine that they are having vivid dreams of running and playing in the sun. Although some people doubt that the canine mind is capable of dreaming, dog psychology studies have proven otherwise. Like humans, dogs do enter a stage of sleep that allows them to experience dreams. These dreams often mimic recent events and are typically active and happy in nature.

The Power of the Bark

When a dog barks, it isn’t a sound that’s produced without purpose. Dogs recognize how their owners react to different things, including their bark. For example, if barking near the patio door routinely leads to going outside, the dog understands that the action and the response are connected. This can be positive in some respects and negative in others, as dogs can learn how to manipulate the actions of their owners by barking, which may continue incessantly if the desired response is not achieved.

Dogs Are as Smart as Toddlers

Some people mistakenly believe that dogs are not intelligent creatures. This, however, is a false assumption. According to research, dogs are generally as smart as two-year-old children, and they are capable of understanding as many as 150 words. In addition, dogs are quick to learn and can even be taught to count.

Dogs Listen to and Understand the Tone of Your Voice

Dog owners know that their pets often respond to the sound of their voice in different ways. That’s because the study of dog psychology indicates that they are capable of interpreting the meaning behind certain vocal tones. This often results in a commiserating or reflective response. When a person speaks with a sad tone of voice, their pet’s behavior may seem more sad, comforting, or subdued. If the dog owner speaks in anger, dogs will often react in fear or with hesitation.

The Meaning of Tail-Wagging

A wagging tail has long been considered the sign of a happy and friendly animal. This is only a partially accurate assessment, as the direction, speed, and height of a dog’s tail can have different meanings ranging from happiness to aggression. For example, happy dogs will wag their tail to the right, while dogs that are frightened will wag their tails to the left. An aggressive animal will have tense muscles and a rapidly wagging tail.

Jealousy and Dogs

The idea of animals displaying an emotion as human as jealousy may sound far-fetched, but studies have shown that dogs do show certain traits that can be interpreted as jealousy. Scholars have found, for example, that if multiple dogs are present and one is being held, the other dogs may attempt to push it out of the way and take its place. The same has occurred in studies in which one dog is rewarded while another is not. In general, dogs tend to react in a seemingly jealous way when they are are not being given the same amount of attention or rewards as another dog in the household.

Those Guilty Eyes Aren’t About Guilt

Dogs have very expressive eyes that are frequently misunderstood. One of the most endearing expressions that a dog can have is one of guilt when caught near an area or object that has been destroyed or messed up. The expression is not, however, an indicator that the dog is feeling guilty about its actions. Instead, it is a response to the sound of anger, disapproval, or sadness in their owner’s voice. The expression may even indicate that the animal is aware of and anticipating impending consequences to its actions.

Canine Mentors

Imitation is a natural part of learning something new. This is true for animals as well. When a puppy is introduced into a household that already has a well-trained canine present, it will likely watch and follow the older dog. Although its new owners will likely go through the process of training it themselves, it will see how the older dog behaves when it wants to be fed, when it wants to go outside, or when it wants to play. The puppy will imitate its canine mentor, and as a result, it will likely learn more quickly what it should or should not do.

Dogs Don’t Seek Revenge

There are times when a dog’s actions can seem like vengeful acts of retaliation. They may display behavior that seems out of the ordinary at a time that seemingly coincides with an action that it may not have liked, such as being confined to a single room during a home remodeling project, for example. Dogs do not, however, act out in revenge, as that would require a well-thought-out plan. A pet dog cannot plan out such acts, and likely, what one thinks of as a vengeful action is nothing more than a coincidence or simply a dog behaving like a dog.

Dogs Require Both Love and Discipline

It’s natural for an affectionate pet owner to want to lavish their dog with love, attention, and treats. A spoiled and undisciplined dog can become hard to handle, though, and its actions can result in injury to itself and others. For a well-rounded and happy animal, it’s important that pet owners not only provide their dog with lots of love but also maintain discipline. This does not, however, mean that one should abuse their pet. Instead, it is important that the dog is properly trained and that the owner is seen as a sort of pack leader or alpha figure in the home. This decreases the chances that one’s dog will get into trouble.

Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology

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