Every time you take your dog to the vet’s office, or a grooming salon, it seems like there’s always a self-appointed “dog expert” there to tell you exactly what’s going through your dogs head. No matter what your dog is doing, they may tell you something like, “They’re just doing that because they’re mad at you for this or that.” But do our dogs really feel this way? Can our dogs do things just to spite us?
As humans, we constantly anthropomorphize our best canine friends. And not without reason. It turns out dogs are much more intelligent than we give them credit for, and they can use certain behaviors to manipulate us. In a scientific study, it was found that dogs can learn 150 words, and ones that really excel in language can reach up to 250.
One example of how we anthropomorphize our dogs is our presumption that when we do things that upset our loving canines, that they perform an action to hurt us. But their brains don’t really work that way.
Dogs don’t have the ability to reflect, or ponder in time. They live in the present; they have memory, it just works differently. Instead of being stuck in the past like we are, their feelings trigger when something happens to them that they experienced before. If they swam and loved it, they won’t think about it until they go swimming again. Then the memory will be triggered and they will love it again!
Dogs inability to reflect basically means that they don’t do things out of spite. Rather, they know what comes from a certain action. If stealing your shoe will get your attention, your dog might steal your shoe for that reason, not to upset you.
Dogs also mirror our emotions. If we feel bad about bringing them to the grooming salon, they’ll see your fear as legitimate, and that’s exactly what they should feel at the grooming salon. If at the veterinarian’s office and you feel fearful for your dog, try to comfort them by petting their head all while telling them, “You’ll be okay.” They’re going to think, “Oh no this place is bad, I should feel fear”.
All in all, your dog is smarter than you think. They’re capable of understanding human emotion and language better than most people can imagine. Although they can mimic our feelings, they’re not capable of reflection or living in the past, which ensures they’re not able to seek revenge or capable of spite.
Our dogs feel emotions, like anxiety and depression, but they don’t plan out vengeful acts against us.
Sources: American Psychological Association, Pedigree, HowStuffWorks, Smithsonian.com