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Your Dog's Emotions

Dogs have the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans. They have the same hormones and chemical changes that humans do during emotional states and they produce the hormone oxytocin which is connected to love and affection. It is, therefore, reasonable to suggest that dogs have similar emotions to humans. However, these emotions are much more basic as the mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to a 2-year-old child. Dog’s attain their full emotional range by 6-months old and will feel joy, fear, disgust, anger, contentment, distress, excitement and love however cannot develop more complex emotions such as pride, guilt, contempt or shame. So when your dog chews your favourite show and slinks off looking all guilty, the basic emotion he is feeling is fear. He has learnt that if he chews your shoe, you will not be happy!

During sleep, your dog’s brain wave patterns are similar to humans. They display the same stages of electrical activity which is consistent with the idea that dogs do dream. It is an odd fact that small dogs have more dreams than big dogs do. A Great Dane may dream every hour where a toy poodle may dream every ten minutes!

It is easy to assume that when your dog wags his tail, he is happy and friendly. However, this is a myth as tail wagging can be a sign of fear or acts as a warning to others. Your dog’s tail position is an emotional indicator. If it is mid height, then your pooch is relaxed and happy but as the tail moves up it is a sign that he is feeling more threatened or is warning others away. Similarly, your dog’s bark says a lot about what he is thinking. Low pitched sounds usually indicate anger and high pitched sounds means the opposite. If he barks four or five times repeatedly it means: “there’s something going on that we should check out”. In contrast, if he gives a long string of solitary barks with a pause between each one, he is more than likely asking for companionship due to loneliness.

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