Yowling dogs

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JudyN
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Yowling dogs

Post by JudyN » Thu May 25, 2017 4:11 am

A few houses up from me are a couple of dogs who are left in the garden for some of the day when the owners are both out (probably with access to shelter) and howl when left. Jasper seems to completely ignore them but I often wonder - in general, when a dog hears another dog in distress, how does it affect that dog? Is J likely to be thinking 'There they go again, nothing to do with me though,' or could he feel like we would if we regularly heard domestic arguments and crying children?

And similarly, when a positively trained dog hears/sees another owner shout angrily at their dog, what goes through their minds? Is it of no consequence to them or could there even be empathy or something approaching it?
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Nettle » Thu May 25, 2017 8:46 am

I have always found it interesting how (most) social animals' reaction to another of their species being in distress is to ignore it, and to move away from it if they can. I suspect this is largely due to wanting to be far enough away not to be caught up in whatever is distressing the other animal, or caught in the crossfire if it is in danger. I also suspect that a lot of the 'faithful dog/cat/horse saves humans' incidents are more due to the animal wanting to keep its Safe Human in existence so that it continues to be protected.

Or it could be that they hear the dog "telephoning" and think "That call isn't for me" :lol:

My sister used to have a SA dog as a neighbour, which howled and barked for hours and hours at a time, and if I was visiting with my own dogs, they showed neither interest nor empathy.
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Erica
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Erica » Thu May 25, 2017 10:27 am

I saw a possibly relevant study on this yesterday. I cant' find the specific article I read but this covers the same study and isn't in science-speak:
When the actual whines and whimpers of a dog were played, the dogs hearing these sounds showed much more alertness and interest, as compared with the reactions to the computer-generated control sound. On hearing these sounds of canine distress, the listening dogs also showed more stress behaviors, such as licking their lips, low body posture, tail between the legs, yawning, shaking, and whining. The effect was greatest when the sounds they heard were the sounds of stress generated by their housemate. This suggests that the dogs were interpreting the sounds of canine unhappiness and reacting to it—and more so if the sounds were produced by a familiar dog.

When their housemate was brought into the room, the dogs tended to show many concern-related behaviors directed toward this dog. This included staying close to them, licking their faces, tail wagging, rubbing their body alongside the other dog, showing greeting behaviors, and trying to initiate play. These behaviors were more likely to occur when the sounds they had listened to earlier came from the dog they lived with.

All of this looks a lot like empathy.

A final bit of data has to do with the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, found in the dogs' saliva. Simply listening to the whining of a familiar dog drove the level of cortisol up, and it stayed up for a much longer time than when the dogs listened to the stress sounds of an unfamiliar dog.
Psychology Today, "Do Dogs Have Empathy for Other Dogs?
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Nettle
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Nettle » Fri May 26, 2017 2:11 am

Thank you Erica - interesting experiment. :) And you have made me THINK!

The studies are all on dogs that know each other, and presumably like each other (not a given). My observations and Jasper's specific behaviour (or non-behaviour) are about dogs that are not known to the other dog/s. But in science we must not be too tempted to conclude the obvious - it still might be that the "empathetic" dog is concerned about itself and its own safety rather than the anxiety of the other dog. "What happened?" rather than "Are you okay?"

It's so easy for us to put human mores onto animals, but those mores don't always come naturally - most are a result of social conditioning. I'm not saying dogs are or aren't empathetic, just as it isn't a given that humans are or aren't. I suppose the sensible thing to do first of all is find a precise definition for empathy. The child can say "I love you Mummy" and mean so many things.
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by JudyN » Fri May 26, 2017 3:37 am

It would also be interesting to introduce a new yowling dog into the neighbourhood (no, please no....) and see if Jasper's cortisol levels increased compared to when the dogs he's accustomed to yowl - possibly he was worried the first time he heard a dog in distress but then decided it wasn't a threat to him personally, and a new dog yowling could signify a possible threat.

And empathy is such a loaded term, of course. If we wanted, we could analyse it away when applied to humans too, as we would altruism and so on.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Nettle » Sat May 27, 2017 3:08 am

While thinking about this, i wondered if there was any control experiment and if so, how it was staged. Because if I take one of my dogs out, upon my return it is sniffed and checked out by the others as a matter of course. A "where ya bin, wotcher done" kind of interest. So same result when no distress is mocked-up. Of course we can't do cortisol etc. tests at home, but it would be interesting if we could.

Knowing how readily people who aren't dog enthusiasts misread what their dogs are 'saying' I hope there were some observers who were up to speed on dog communication. :)
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JudyN
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by JudyN » Sat May 27, 2017 3:19 am

Nettle wrote:
Sat May 27, 2017 3:08 am
Knowing how readily people who aren't dog enthusiasts misread what their dogs are 'saying' I hope there were some observers who were up to speed on dog communication. :)
Though they're not half as bad as the people who are dog enthusiasts who misread what their dogs are saying. ('Oh, but he's wagging his tail, he must want to be friends') :wink:
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Nettle
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Nettle » Sat May 27, 2017 8:11 am

lol - I used the wrong word - I was trying to avoid terms like 'professionals' or 'experts' :lol: because even if not the first, most folks think they are the second "I've had dogs all my life..."
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Erica
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by Erica » Sat May 27, 2017 11:40 am

Nettle wrote:
Sat May 27, 2017 3:08 am
While thinking about this, i wondered if there was any control experiment and if so, how it was staged. Because if I take one of my dogs out, upon my return it is sniffed and checked out by the others as a matter of course. A "where ya bin, wotcher done" kind of interest. So same result when no distress is mocked-up. Of course we can't do cortisol etc. tests at home, but it would be interesting if we could.

Knowing how readily people who aren't dog enthusiasts misread what their dogs are 'saying' I hope there were some observers who were up to speed on dog communication. :)
There were three options for the sound played. One was the housemate's stressed whine; another was an unfamiliar dog's whine; the third was a computer generated noise with similar frequency/pitch. The third was considered the control.

I have thoughts to type up at some point but no time at the moment! Hopefully will get some time to do that soon.
Our subjects were first exposed to a playback phase where they were subjected either to a control sound, a familiar whine (from their familiar partner) or a stranger whine stimulus (from a stranger dog), and then a reunion phase where the familiar partner entered the room. When exposed to whines, dogs showed a higher behavioral alertness and exhibited more stress-related behaviors compared to when exposed to acoustically similar control sounds. Moreover, they demonstrated more comfort-offering behaviors toward their familiar partners following whine playbacks than after control stimuli. Furthermore, when looking at the first session, this comfort offering was biased towards the familiar partner when subjects were previously exposed to the familiar compared to the stranger whines. Finally, familiar whine stimuli tended to maintain higher cortisol levels while stranger whines did not. To our knowledge, these results are the first to suggest that dogs can experience and demonstrate “empathic-like” responses to conspecifics’ distress-calls.
Investigating Empathy-Like Responding to Conspecifics’ Distress in Pet Dogs by Mylene Quervel-Chaumette, Viola Faerber, Tamás Faragó, Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Friederike Range
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emmabeth
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Re: Yowling dogs

Post by emmabeth » Sun May 28, 2017 6:14 pm

My dogs couldn't give a wossname when Arthur next door is singing to be let in or howling because he's been left home alone, or barking at them when they do return..

They go off their heads though when he says the postman is out there!
West Midlands based 1-2-1 Training & Behaviour Canine Consultant

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