Dogs Decoded

Our Life 2012 007

I am, unashamedly, a dog person so I really enjoyed the documentary on Dogs Decoded. I have always had a dog and cannot remember life without one. I guess the same could be said to be true of the human race. Dogs have been such an integral part of our collective lives for so long that there probably isn’t a recollection of a time before dogs. And for all the benefits we’ve received from them over the centuries, who would want to? One of the scientists in the film even went so far as to say that human culture as we know it wouldn’t have gotten off to such a fabulous start without them. While that statement might be debatable, there is no denying the positive impact dogs have had on our lives. It’s a shame that their contributions haven’t previously merited study. Perhaps it’s because they’ve lived with us for so long that we’ve taken them for granted and assumed we know everything about them. It just goes to show that there is no limit to human arrogance; we don’t even fully understand each other, let alone man’s best friend.

One of the things they said early on in the documentary was that the information they discovered only confirmed what dog owners have known for a very long time. Still, this film excited me with its information. Every time something new was revealed about their behavior I found myself saying, “my dog does that!” What really interested me though was that dogs can do things that even our closest relative, the chimpanzee, cannot. Dogs have lived with humans for so long that they’ve come to understand us and are able to interpret our cues where other animals cannot. For instance, I have always taken it for granted that my dog can learn to find things based on where I’m pointing. I’ve always just assumed it was a result of training and not something they know intuitively. After watching the experiment with puppies responding to hand and eye gestures, I came to realize that there might be more to this behavior than I previously thought. It was also interesting to me that the wolves raised by humans were not able to respond in the same way as dogs.

Dogs have lived with us for so long that they truly have become part of the family. They can read our moods, offer comfort when we’re sad, and they bring a joy to our lives that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I probably didn’t need the documentary to remind me of these things since I have had the pleasure of knowing some really great dogs in my life. If there’s anything I would change about dogs it would be their lifespan. For all the joy and happiness they bring us, they are only with us for a short time. Sometimes you really don’t know what you have until it isn’t there anymore. Last year I lost my buddy, Krypto, and it still hurts to this day. It was only reluctantly that I got another dog but she has gone miles towards healing my heart.

Zoey after swim

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2 thoughts on “Dogs Decoded

  1. First I am sorry for your lost of your dog, its hard to lose a pet. Second I also that was really interesting about how already have the pointing cue and other things we do “program into their head”. We do all this training and hiring people like the Dog Whisper and all the dogs do is follow our lead, as their Alpha.

  2. Great Post, Josh!

    I’m also sorry about Krypto. I know how you feel.

    On the gesture recognition topic, it is indeed really cool that they instinctively understand a human pointing.

    What’s even cooler, though, is that they can console and comfort you when you get injured. I’ve hurt myself a couple of times over the years around my dogs, usually from falls, and every time they have come rushing over to help. They bee-line straight for my injury, be it a scrape, strain, or twist, and start licking the area. It’s amazing! And it’s true, I swear it!

    This is perhaps unrelated to the class and the topic, but the other day I witness an angry squirrel knock a rival squirrel out of a tree. I was the only one around, and the squirrel fell with a smack on the sidewalk in front of me, breaking it rear right leg. The squirrel managed to drag itself out into the grass, and suddenly another squirrel hopped over and began stroking its back consolingly. I was amazed! The uninjured squirrel then guided his hurt buddy over to a tree and helped him climb up.

    Animals are so cool.

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