Dogs can read canine emotions

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JudyN
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Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:33 am

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35159786

I'm not sure there's any surprises for anyone here who has watched dogs interact, whether playfully or challenging each other. Does mirroring another dog's facial expressions and body language imply empathy? The article asks whether this shows that dogs have any understanding of other dogs' thought processes, or emotions. They certainly seem to know what another dog's intentions are, and they often react in a certain way when their owners are sad. What more would it take to show that this is empathy?

Then there's the many stories of dogs who see another dog is in their favourite place and go to the window, look out and bark. The other dog then gets up to look out the window, and the first dog nicks his place. This could be learning - or could be evidence that dogs have a theory of mind.
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Nettle
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by Nettle » Wed Dec 23, 2015 6:10 am

This is where "scientific discovery" makes me want to assume the foetal position and rock. Aarrrggghhhhh.

Especially with comments such as this hasn't been observed in other animals except apes, and that they are going to study wolves to get more information about dogs.

:?
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:35 am

Nettle wrote:they are going to study wolves to get more information about dogs.
That might be useful though - if they don't find it in wolves, it would at least suggest that this is something that has developed separately in dogs, possibly in conjunction with domestication. Though I'm not sure why domestication would have led to the development of dog-dog 'empathy', and there's every reason for wolves to have developed an astute reading of other wolves' body language.

It'll always be possible to explain away any evidence of empathy in dogs though, just as it is always possible to explain away any evidence of altruism in humans. Before you test for empathy, you need to decide exactly what will count as evidence of empathy, and what is 'just doing what works'.

There seems to be a lot of evidence elephants show empathy, too. But again, you could probably explain it all away if you wanted to.
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mansbestfriend
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by mansbestfriend » Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:52 am

This subject has always fascinated me. Dogs can pay very close attention to others' behaviours as a way to communicate, but is it empathy? I'd like to learn more. :)
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by Nettle » Wed Dec 23, 2015 9:06 am

I was on the 'good grief who would have thought it - dogs might be able to understand other dogs whoooweeee. :o :shock: :!:

IME every social animal I have come across have been able to understand its own kind - how not?

Prey species have a very good idea of when predators are in the mood to predate, and also when they are not.


Empathy with humans is only an extension of that. But we have to leave the pink fluffy stuff out of it - dogs empathise with humans to stay safe. That's why dogs are afraid of flaky people, whatever is causing the flakiness.

You don't need science to realise that - just observation and - er - empathy. :wink:
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Wed Dec 23, 2015 9:49 am

Nettle wrote:IME every social animal I have come across have been able to understand its own kind - how not?

Prey species have a very good idea of when predators are in the mood to predate, and also when they are not.
I'm not sure that's 'empathy' though, any more than I know what the weather is going to do from observing the dark rainclouds.
Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors.
It's more to do with understanding not just how the other animal will behave, but understanding that the other animal feels the same joy, pain, fear, etc that they would in a similar situation. We may know what an android programmed to mimic human behaviour is going to do, but we wouldn't empathise with it if it fell over and grimaced (well we might but we'd tell ourselves not to be silly). Some people with autism may learn to tell what others will do, but show a lack of theory of mind.

There have been experiments to show that rats and dolphins will help other rats & dolphins escape pain or get food. I'm not sure if it's possible to explain these away - because it makes sense on sociobiological principles to preserve the reproductive ability of other animals close to you who may be genetically related.
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by Nettle » Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:22 pm

Great discussion!

The 'empathy' thing from the point of putting oneself in another's mindset isn't universal with humans, as you have said.

But reading the other person's/animal's intentions or mood - is a very important survival skill.


As for co-operative behaviour for food, safety and other benefits - all social species show that. And members of all social species will also at times let the other feller take the rap if it saves their own life. And take food from the mouths of the weak, persecute the different, ostracise or kill old/sick/less effective individuals.....

if we are looking for altruism, that's another behaviour again, and a whole different discussion. :) Most human altruism is in reality for the pleasure of the altruist - if such a word exists.

because it makes sense on sociobiological principles to preserve the reproductive ability of other animals close to you who may be genetically related.

I'm not too sure about this. It actually makes more sense to me not to - but I'll listen with great interest if you want to develop that.
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:55 pm

Nettle wrote:because it makes sense on sociobiological principles to preserve the reproductive ability of other animals close to you who may be genetically related.

I'm not too sure about this. It actually makes more sense to me not to - but I'll listen with great interest if you want to develop that.
Why does it not make sense to you? If the animal close to me is my son, or my sister, I share half their genes so helping them to reproduce (if it doesn't impact on my own ability to reproduce) is in effect helping to pass on our own genes. Though really it's the genes in control - it's the survival of the gene that drives selection, not the individual (hence some animals 'choosing' not to reproduce but to assist their family members to reproduce).
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by mansbestfriend » Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:34 pm

There's no doubt that dogs have become well attuned to people, but a person's ability to ponder, understand, theorise, empathise, is on a very different level to that of the smartest of dogs.

Dog emotions are translated almost directly into behaviour. In my layman experience, dogs 'typically' react to other dogs/animals' behaviour (and scent and ...) and they have very fast reflexes. I need more evidence to accept that dogs are thinking about others' thoughts from the others' point of view. When we think of the idea of empathy as we humans understand it, it probably deserves a different term altogether when referring to dogs.

Sometimes I wonder though when Kelly dog sits quietly and watches me watching TV. :)
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by Nettle » Thu Dec 24, 2015 3:52 am

JudyN wrote:
Nettle wrote:because it makes sense on sociobiological principles to preserve the reproductive ability of other animals close to you who may be genetically related.

I'm not too sure about this. It actually makes more sense to me not to - but I'll listen with great interest if you want to develop that.
Why does it not make sense to you? If the animal close to me is my son, or my sister, I share half their genes so helping them to reproduce (if it doesn't impact on my own ability to reproduce) is in effect helping to pass on our own genes. Though really it's the genes in control - it's the survival of the gene that drives selection, not the individual (hence some animals 'choosing' not to reproduce but to assist their family members to reproduce).

Makes sense to me because genetic diversity is more important for species survival than close genetic match. Only now, with greater technology to help us study wildlife, are we losing the Victorian morality ideal of animals pairing for life with utter fidelity and instead realising that in the interests of genetic diversity, there is much copulation outside the pair-bond.


MBF I am in complete agreement with your statement: Dog emotions are translated almost directly into behaviour. In my layman experience, dogs 'typically' react to other dogs/animals' behaviour (and scent and ...) and they have very fast reflexes. I need more evidence to accept that dogs are thinking about others' thoughts from the others' point of view. When we think of the idea of empathy as we humans understand it, it probably deserves a different term altogether when referring to dogs.


because in survival terms, you gain/survive by knowing what is on the other feller's mind. Domestication of dogs has not IMO changed that ability. To survive with us, they need to know our mindset and if possible to be able to respond to that in the most gainful way they can. However, they have not lost the ability to do the same with other animals.
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Thu Dec 24, 2015 5:14 am

Nettle wrote:Makes sense to me because genetic diversity is more important for species survival than close genetic match.
But the gene (as the driver of behavioural and physical traits) isn't interested in species survival in the slightest, only in the survival of the gene. 'Group selection' was discredited many years ago. Having said that, this is what I learnt at uni in the late 70s/early 80s and I wouldn't be at all surprised if I'm hopelessly out of date and you are more in touch with more recent theories. Have you read Dawkins's The Selfish Gene? And where's Bendog when we need her?

When it comes to emotions in non-humans I think we could argue around it forever and still not know what they really experience. To me it just makes sense that higher mammals have so much in common with us that when they look happy, sad, angry, etc it makes sense to assume their mental world is in many respects similar to ours. But again, we could program a robot to look happy, sad, etc. cf Nagel's What is it Like to be a Bat?.
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by Nettle » Thu Dec 24, 2015 6:14 am

Yes, I read The Selfish Gene when it first came out years ago. Interesting theory. That I don't agree is not me saying I know better, just that I apply logic and observation instead. To me (i.e. not necessarily correct, only in my view) the more diverse the gene pool, the healthier the species, and the more the opportunity, the wider the individual creature spreads its genes.

The 'emotions' debate I agree can - and should - be widely discussed. Rather like colour perception (I don't know what other humans see when they look at colours, only what I see) I suspect the entire issue is highly individual. I see no reason to think animals don't have emotions - after all, part of my income is derived from dog behaviour work :lol: so I have to analyse in depth what is going on in the animal's mind to provoke the unwanted behaviour.

I really annoyed a lecturer early this year when on a short course of human behaviour, by saying, "The more I work with animal behaviour, the more I see people". She really did not like that. But for me it is true. She was religious (humans are far better than animals) and I am not (humans are simply highly sophisticated animals) so it would have been an interesting discussion.
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Re: Dogs can read canine emotions

Post by JudyN » Thu Dec 24, 2015 8:35 am

Nettle wrote:I see no reason to think animals don't have emotions
As they say, If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck :wink: If I decide, based on lack of evidence, that dogs don't experience emotions, I could equally decide that humans other than me don't either.
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