Can Dogs Feel Admiration?

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Introduction

Flynn, the Bichon Frise, was this year's winner at the Westminster Dog Show.  This gorgeous, fluffy white dog stole the hearts of people across the country, making television appearances as the Best in Show for 2018. It's hard to look at this little beauty without admiring him. He is a graceful and charming performer with perfect behavior with his handler. This little celebrity appeared confident with all this attention. 

Then we have our own pets, whom we adore and admire. Many an hour can be spent playing with and admiring our darling dogs. Whether a show dog or family pet,  we adore our dogs and it seems they enjoy our attention when we are admiring them.

Signs a Dog Feels Admired

Dogs are great communicators if we are astute to their body signals, disposition and the context of their behavior. Even with humans, body language provides powerful communications signals. 

There are nonverbal signals that you and your dog are exchanging that communicates the positive feelings you are sharing. Dogs are reactive in the moment which makes it important to understand your dog's signals. Your dog relies on you for shelter, food, exercise, and security. Your relationship with your dog is strengthened by your positive interactions.

Dogs who are admired and cared for look confident. They stand tall, with their tail straight. Their mouth is open with the tongue hanging. They are attentive to their owner and are alert. Your dog may look at you and stare to let you know your attention is wanted. When you are having time relaxing with your dog and admiring them, you may see signs of submission. Your dog may blink and yawn. 

The ears can tell you much about what your dog is thinking. A relaxed dog has relaxed ears. The ears are up when the dog is alert. If your dog has their ears pulled back slightly, this is a signal the dog is wanting attention.

You communicate admiration of your dog in many ways. You may speak in sweet tones, pet your dog, provide your dog treats, and make your dog comfortable. In turn, your dog will show affection to you with loyalty and responsiveness to your signals and commands. 

Dogs seem to react to the energy level in the room. If you are agitated, you may find your dog acting more active and even protective. If you are calm, you may find your dog snuggling in with you. If you are feeling emotional and expressing love, you may find that your dog is responding by coming to you, letting you pet the dog and being near to you.

Body Language

Signs your dog is feeling your admiration include:
  • Alert
  • Yawning
  • Ears back
  • Blinking
  • Tongue hanging

Other Signs

More cues your dog will give when they feel admired are:
  • Responding to the emotional tone you communicate
  • Listening to your commands
  • Coming to you to show affection

The History of Humans Admiring Dogs

The human and canine bond started centuries ago. It is believed that their bond formed from survival needs. The dog assisted the human to locate the hunt and provide protection. The human, in turn, provided food and shelter. 

Dogs have evolved to meet human needs, as we breed them to have skills to help humans. Out of this close relationship of living and working together, humans have learned methods to train dogs and to take care of them. The dog, our loyal companion, has learned to attend to our commands and training. 

Dogs are instinctively pack animals. They are social animals. As pups, they are socialized to understand their place in the pack. In their relationship with you, they learn what is and is not acceptable behavior. They also learn that good things will happen if they meet your expectations as they receive positive rewards.

The Science of Dogs Understanding Your Admiration

Science is showing us that your dog can understand your emotions. Dogs use information from different senses to read human feelings. A research team at the University of Lincoln, UK, and the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil studied 17 dogs with pairings of human and canine faces and sounds that represented different emotions. 

Positive emotions were playful or happy. Negative emotions were angry or aggressive. The dogs spent more time looking at the faces when the vocalization matched the emotion expressed on the face. This was found with both dog and human faces and sounds. 

Previous studies had shown that dogs can read facial expressions. The finding that dogs use both vocalizations and faces to understand emotions suggests that dogs have a coherent perception of emotion.

Another recent study demonstrated that the love hormone, oxytocin, raises when your dog sees your face. Researchers at the University of Helsinke's Canine Mind Project showed that dogs will ignore the presence of danger to see their owner's smile. We can infer that dogs do recognize and understand that we are showing them love when we admire them. 

Training Your Dog for Admiration

Dog shows can be a fun experience and you do not have to have a pedigree to take your dog to the ring. There are mixed breed dog shows that you can find. 

Show dogs have showmanship. They have good behavior in the ring, a good relationship with the handler and they are very confident when they are being judged. There are three behaviors your dog must do well: "Gait", "Stack" and "Be Examined". To teach these behaviors, start with short sessions using positive reinforcement. 

1. You will need a collar that is basically a loop with short lead. 

2. Many trainers use the clicker to signal that a reward is coming. Train your dog to be responsive to the clicker with a treat. Once your dog is trained to be responsive to the clicker, you can proceed with your training.

3. Gaiting. Teaching the dog to gait is more than walking. The dog must move with the handler. The dog must hold the head and body properly for the breed. Start by teaching the dog to move with the handler, using the clicker. The dog cannot look at the trainer. The clicker helps to train the dog to keep the face forward and the treat is given at the left side of the handler's body. If the dog pulls ahead, signal the dog to come back and start again.

4. Stacking. The dog must learn to stand and wait in a proper position on their own. Have treats in your hand. With small dogs on the table and large dogs on the ground,  position the dog, giving treats as the dog stands and allows you to place the dog in position. Start with the front legs, then position the rear legs. Once the dog learns to stand, teach the dog to "Stay". This will take repeated practice.

5. Examination. The judge will approach the dog and examine the dog, looking in the mouth and ears, then feeling the body and legs. Make it part of your daily routine to handle the dog's body. Say "Mouth Please" when examining the mouth. Once your dog is comfortable with your handling, practice with other people touching your dog.

Many clubs will have events for amateurs and classes to help you have fun showing your dog that you adore!

How to React to Your Dog Understanding Admiration:

  • Give your dog attention in the morning.
  • Provide toys for your dog that are appropriate.
  • Interact with your dog and let your dog be near you.
  • Brush and touch your dog.
  • Take quick walks with your dog.
  • Reinforce your dog for being good with praise.
  • Train your dog!

We Want to Hear About Your Pooch Feeling Admiration!