One way to begin approaching dog’s behavior is by comparing him to us. I’m sure you have heard dozens of phrases that define the differences between us.
One of these phrases is “don’t interpret the dog’s behavior, being based on human behavior”.
So, let’s begin to find out if this is true.
Humans, as well as
, are born with some “genetic instruction”, something like a “pre-installed” software. These instructions are encoded in a molecule, called DNA. In parallel with the computer, we can say that DNA is our operating system. I cite the following text from wikipedia, for obvious reasons.
“It’s a macromolecular compound and it consists of nitrogen – protein bases, phosphate groups and a monosaccharide sugar with five atoms of carbon (pentose), called deoxyribose. Eucariotic cells store most of their DNA inside the cell nucleus and some of it in organelles, such as mitochondria and chloroplasts, giving them the chance to reproduce autonomously (semi-autonomous organelles).
The DNA molecules that exist in a cell consist its genetic material. DNA is the carrier of the genetic information of the cell, not only the information concerning the unaltered characteristics transmitted from generation to generation, but also of information regulating the specialized functioning of each cell. Finally, DNA permits the creation of genetic variety by being mutated”.
Which are the basic behavior characteristics that are transmitted from generation to generation?
The existence of both humans and dogs is determined by two predispositions.
Each aspect of dog and human behavior is formed by these two instincts.
How these predispositions are translated behavioristicly?
Searching for food and self-protection are important parts of our survival.
This means that both of us are trying to create the necessary conditions, so that our life and the resources that we have conquered are not endangered.
Emotions like anger and fear play the most important role in this functioning.
So, in order to act towards securing the above, there are the emotions but also a primal biological system that helps us, even in difficult situations, to act immediately. This system triggers our reaction to danger. Our reaction is limited in to two responses, fight or flight.
Let’s consult wikipedia again.
What is that system for human beings?
“Adrenaline helps the organism to motivate all its energy resources in cases of intense activity, by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system for emergency action during the “fight or flight response”. So, the nerve fiber terminals of the adrenegic nerve, of the sympathetic nervous system, secrete nor epinephrine or nor adrenaline and the adrenal glands secrete epinephrine or adrenaline. These substances, that have common results activate vessels’ and other organs’ receptors, preparing the heart and the muscles for action”. See more in wikipedia.
What means for a human being “to create the conditions for safety, survival and perpetuation of the species”?
Work for the “ensurance” of the necessary resources.
Safe house (shelter), where I will not be at risk of “natural disasters” or attacks against me.
Social networking, in order to have friends, who will support me in case something happens.
What about the dog? Does he ask for something more or something less, compared to us?
Respectively we have:
Team (Recent researches try to feature the dog as a non-gregarious animal, without, though questioning his sociability. This is why I’m referring to this comparison as team).
Let’s continue with the emotions. The basic human emotions are:
Joy or pleasure.
You will find hundreds of contradicting researches, but in order not to get carried away to an unnecessary and endless presentation let’s stick to these. The question that arises now is, why do we need to research on our emotions?
I hope there isn’t anyone, who argues that dogs’ behavior implies that he can experience exactly the same feelings with us. There are a lot of emotional hues, that consist subdivisions of the basic ones, or mixed emotions, to which we have ascribed other characterizations. This is mainly due to man’s thinking and need to give names to everything.
So, let’s talk about thinking.
How do we think?
If you try to do the addition 23+22, there are two ways to come up with the sum.
Some of you will follow the procedure 20 + 20 = 40, 3 + 2 = 5, 40 + 5 = 45.
Some others will align the numbers in their minds and do the addition, as we were taught at school.
In the first case the result was given by using a linear procedure, while in the second we visualized the addition in our minds.
In both cases our memory was activated. If we didn’t have memory, there wouldn’t be a way, in neither case, to come up with a result.
Of course, dogs also have memory, they recognize images, and so they can think through them. The linear way of thinking, though, seems, for the time being, to be a human “advantage”.
Speaking now about memory there’s one more difference.
If you happen see to two dogs fighting, you’ll observe that after the fight ends and the dogs take separate ways, their behavior has nothing in common with their behavior during the fight. A few seconds later, it would be like the fight never took place. If two people fight, it’s most likely that they will spend the rest of the day being nervous and recounting the incident.
If, now, the same two dogs, meet again, their behavior will prove that they remember the incident of the fight, by acting in specific ways depending on the outcome of their first fight. Usually the “loser” will retreat.
We referred to the instincts and we also talked about thinking, the differences, though, between humans and dogs don’t fully support our contrarieties.
So, excluding a part of the human thinking and its ability to project continuously, not only to the present, but also to the past and the future, the triptych:
Body – Emotion – Thinking for dogs and humans has more similarities than differences.