Tuesday, 19 July 2011

do dogs relate to humans more than to other dogs?

Slavenka has posted recently about a book by Professor John Bradshaw, called In Defence of Dogs.

I followed the link in her post and read an article at guardian.co.uk I agree with everything I read.

For instance, I have observed that Penny:
will sometimes sniff other dogs but doesn't like being sniffed;
likes humans more than she likes dogs;
is concerned that the 'pack' stay together on a walk;
is relaxed about her humans leaving the house because she trusts, from experience, that they will return;
Is not concerned about dominance;
loves to win a tug of war game but does not change her behavior because she has won.

Some aspects of the short article were new to me:

He says:
"People have been studying American timber wolves because the European wolf is virtually extinct. And the American timber wolf is not related at all closely to the ancestry of the domestic dog."

Bradshaw's hypothesis is that domestic dogs were descended from more sociable wolves but that "whatever the ancestor of the dog was like, we don't have it today". The wolves alive now are unreliable specimens, necessarily rough diamonds, who have been able to "survive the onslaught we have given them". And here is the rub: new research – including work with Indian village dogs – shows that dogs "do not set up wolf-type packs. They don't organise themselves in the way wolves do"
He writes about love (science plays safe and calls it "attachment") but in answer to the question: does your dog love you? replies: 'Of course!" The positive hormone, oxytocin, is triggered by love: "Dogs experience a surge of oxytocin during friendly interactions with people."
I think I will have to buy this book and read it!


Lassiter Chase and T said...

I know this is kinda off topic a little, but my mommy said, when she took me to the vet to get a checkup -- a big black dog sniffed her butt when we were waiting at the reception desk. The dog didn't sniff my butt -- just my mom person's butt. Mommy didn't really think to much about it until she read your blog post. Not sure what conclusion to make from the dog sniffing Mommy and not me -- maybe the doggie liked my mom person better than me. Maybe the doggie is like you Penny, liking humans more than dogs.

parlance said...

Lassiter Chase, that's an interesting comment! I wonder if you are right, and the dog likes people more than other dogs.

Honey the Great Dane said...

Hmm...I think I'd still withold judgement on the word "love" - not because I don't believe that dogs don't feel some kind of strong emotion for us but because I think people humanise them too much as it is and this would just encourage it even more - and it does dogs a lot more harm than good! I don't know why people always have to translate everything dogs do & feel into human terms - why can't we just relate to them as DOGS and accept them as they are? It's almost as if it's shameful to love your dog as a DOG and not as a substitute child or partner or something...

But anyway, I would agree that some dogs relate more to humans - but I think it all depends on the individual dogs' personality and also on their early imprinting. I think research shows that if they didn't have enough contact with other dogs, they tend to relate more/better to humans for the rest of their lives - and vice versa. Obviously, ideally you want a dog that's equally balanced! :-)


parlance said...

Hsin-Yi, I see what you mean. On the other hand, my report on the book is third-hand, and I'm not sure what the author may have actually said about the word 'love'. I have the impression that it's not 'love' as in the romantic sense, but in the sense that humans have a surge of oxytocin when they see a loved person. I don't know enough about biology to know whether we get this flush of chemicals at other times. I think it said dogs experience this hormone when they interact with a human who is one of their 'pack'. I'll freely admit to being a bit vague about the details, lol.