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Are You Missing Reading Your Dog?

continued, part 2

Dog Myth #3 : Dogs Who Jump Up Are Trying to Dominate Us

We all know dogs whose usual ritual for greeting you at the door is to jump up and joyfully receive strokes and attention, and acknowledge that this is friendly (if sometimes a little boisterous!) behavior.

Years of misguided advice from well-meaning dog trainers that dogs are essentially wolves who need their owners to dominate them (advice which, thanks to research such as John W. S. Bradshaw and his colleagues’ ‘Dominance in domestic dogs – useful construct or bad habit?’, we now know is incorrect), have also led to dog owners across the world believing that when their dogs jump up at them in other situations, they are attempting to dominate.

In reality, jumping up is one of many active submission or appeasement behaviors dogs employ. In a situation where an owner is initiating verbal or physical reprimands and the dog responds by jumping up, it is not ‘arguing’ in an effort to assert its dominance – it is unsure what to do, potentially distressed, and attempting to appease its owner.

Dog Myth #4: Yawning Dogs Are Tired

Dogs, like us, do yawn when they’re tired. They also yawn when they feel stressed, anxious, or wish to calm a situation in which they find themselves involved. If your dog yawns when you get out a brush a begin to groom him, he’s most likely trying to tell you that he’s not entirely happy with what’s happening.

If he yawns when you pull him onto your lap and hug him tightly, he’s giving you a sign that he’s not comfortable with being held quite so closely. It is one of many deliberate signals used to calm both the dog himself and attempt to modify the behavior of the person or animal with whom he is interacting.

There is also evidence from Joly Macheroni and fellow researchers in ‘Dogs catch human yawns’ that dogs exhibit cross-species yawning contagion, as they frequently respond in kind when observing human yawns.

Whilst it is argued that this provides support for the theory that dogs are able to effectively empathize with their human companions, others, such as Sean J. O’Hara and Amy V. Reeve in their 2011 paper, ‘A test of the yawning contagion and emotional connectedness hypothesis in dogs’ argue that it is a primitive and nonconscious ‘copying’ behavior, used to establish and strengthen social bonds.

Evolving Our Connected Social Cognition. Despite the unique relationship between humans and dogs having led to some shared cognitive skills and abilities, some misinterpretations do exist in our intertwined lives. We still have some way to go before truly understanding our dogs’ signs and signals becomes second nature.

This article is from Sian John, written For: Decoded Science

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