It’s amazing to think that dogs were once considered by scientists, to be clone like creatures, each with an identical nature and set of needs. This belief was due to the dog’s smaller front cortex area in the brain which is considered the advanced emotional area. Thus, we have been told for a long time that dogs are emotionally simple and we must avoid anthropomorphism.
Until recently, scientists believed that humans were the only species capable of experiencing sophisticated emotion yet things are beginning to change. Joyce Poole of the organisation Elephant Voices has carried out research extensively and shown that elephants do indeed feel grief at the loss of a group member. Elephants emote and let’s face it, so do dogs.
We are also learning that emotional reactions are not limited to the brain area but are created in other areas of the body. The chemistry of emotion is found to affect much of the body, inclusive of immunity and even heart health. Daniel Goleman tells us that hostility is linked to heart disease in men. Whilst in women stress places strain on the heart area. We also know that stress related emotions strain the immune system.
A few decades ago we believed that animals were simply basic biological creatures, genetically programmed for physical survival alone. Thankfully we are learning so much more about dogs, though we still have a long way to go. There is no reason at this point to believe that the emotional life of dogs is any less complex than our own. We know too little to prove it yet too much to disprove it.
Our dogs can be happy, sad, fearful, anxious, humorous and have a sense of fair play and their body language shows us. We simply have to learn their language and carefully observe.