Dogs are a man’s best friend, or so the old saying goes. How similar to humans are they? Are dogs capable of feeling emotions the same way that their human owners can?
Puppies and Toddlers
Babies begin developing basic emotions from the time of their birth. Between birth and age 3, babies and toddlers learn to experience excitement, joy, love, anger, fear, and distress among others. When you compare puppies to toddlers, you can find a lot of similarities.
Humans continue to develop complex emotions throughout their entire lives. Dogs, when compared to human emotional growth, tend to stop around 2.5 years. This gives them the overall emotional capacity of a human toddler.
Anyone who’s ever heard that unique huffing pant that sounds like a chuckle from their furry friend can tell you that dogs can laugh. Some studies have shown that this particular type of pant can even encourage other dogs to laugh, and put them at ease when they’re in a stressful or anxiety ridden situation.
There is nothing quite like the look of a dog jumping for joy, whether it’s during play or for a new toy or treat. Even Charles Darwin, the father of Evolutionary Theory, noticed how they will react when the potential for great pleasure is presented.
Not all emotions are positive, and grief is one of the most powerful and painful emotions that someone can experience. Dogs have been shown to grieve after losing an animal companion, and after losing a human friend. Pictures of a dog named Hawkeye who lay beside the casket of his master, Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson, went viral in 2011 after the petty officer was killed in Afghanistan. Hawkeye wouldn’t leave his late master’s side throughout the entire funeral.
This is just one example of dogs all over the world mourning their fallen comrades. Google “dogs mourning” and you’ll find dozens of other examples.
Just like humans, dogs are capable of feeling disgust. They may be disgusted with the taste of the food you have given them, or they may be disgusted with the behavior that they’ve witnessed in their human or animal companions. The look on your dogs face when his or her litter mate has soiled their living area is the perfect example.
Suspicion is one of the emotions that make a dog into a good guardian. Being suspicious of a new person in the home or an intruder can help a dog to protect you and your family. It has to be handled carefully, though, or it can turn into jealousy in the case of a new baby or animal in the home. If you are training your dog to be a guard dog, then it is a good trait to have, otherwise it should be strictly controlled.
Do not ever take your dog’s ability to feel emotion for granted. Give them your love and they will give you all the love they have in return.