Lately, it seems, hardly a month goes by without either some viral video or paper-writing scientist suggesting that — contrary to what scientists and the media think we think — dogs feel emotions much like our own, or at least a doggy version of them.
If it’s not a video, like the one above – which is being described in the news media as a dog not just feeling remorse, but atoning for his misdeed — it’s a new scientific paper proclaiming, yes, dogs do feel … you name it … joy, fear, anger, guilt, pride, compassion, love, shame.
(If you didn’t already think dogs feel joy, you may not be the world’s most perceptive person.)
(Some, apparently, get so overwhelmed by it that they pass out.)
This month’s emotion? Jealousy.
Dr. Christine Harris, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego — after a study involving dogs, their owners, stuffed animals, jack-o’-lantern and children’s books – concluded that dogs showed a “primordial” form of jealousy, meaning, I guess, not as evolved, twisted, complex, nasty and, sometimes, fatal as the human form.
According to an article in the New York Times, the dog version of jealousy is “not as complex as the human emotion, but similar in that there is a social triangle and the dog is trying to make sure it, not the rival, receives the attention.”
In the study, as it’s described in a a PLoS One paper co-written by Harris, researchers compared the reactions of dogs when their owners petted and talked to a jack-o’-lantern, read a children’s book aloud, and petted and talked to a stuffed toy dog that barked and whined.
The dogs paid little attention to the jack-o’-lantern or the book. But when dog owners petted and talked to the stuffed dog, their dogs reacted, coming over, pushing their noses into the owner or stuffed dog, sometimes barking, and sniffing the rear end of the stuffed dog.
I’m not sure that’s proof of jealousy — it could just be proof that dogs are smart enough to investigate when humans are trying to dupe them. On top of that, most dogs have experience playing with stuffed toys, as opposed to plastic pumpkins and children’s books. So it’s not too astonishing they would have a more excited reaction to them.
In that way, the findings of this study aren’t really too surprising, or revealing, but they are indicative, I think, of a trend — in the scientific community, in the news media, and among normal members of society — of seeing dogs more and more as humans.
The “dogs feel jealousy” study, for example — flimsy as its findings sounds– was picked up by most major news organizations.
“Study: Jealousy Is So Universal Even Dogs Feel It,” reported the New York Times.
“Study: Dogs Can Feel Jealous, Too,” said a CNN headline.
At least NPR phrased their headline as a question: “Does Your Dog Feel Jealous, Or Is That A Purely Human Flaw?”
These days, the news media doesn’t need a legitimate study to draw sweeping conclusions; a viral video will do.
The headlines all presume to know what the beagle is feeling, and some go so far as to explain the goal of his behavior as well: “I’m Sorry! Charlie the guilty dog showers crying baby with gifts to apologize for stealing her toy,” reads the headline in The Daily Mail.
My problem is not with attributing emotions to dogs. I believe they have most of the ones we do, or at least most of the desirable ones. I believe they have other magical gifts and skills we haven’t even begun to figure out. I believe studying what’s going on in their heads is a good thing — at least when it’s done by dog experts. I can even handle a little anthropomorphization; given we’re humans we tend to interpret things in human terms.
What bothers me, for starters, is presenting such findings as new, when dog owners have known most of them all along. Sometimes, it’s as if scientists and the news media are saying, oh wait, we’ve discovered dogs are not unfeeling blobs of fur, after all. Well, duh.
The problem I have is not so much ascribing emotions to dogs as it the vanity of assuming emotions are something only humans feel.
And feel free as well, video posters, to share your dog’s interesting and seemingly human-like behavior, and to offer any theories you might have.
But let’s not leap to wild conclusions, based on how things look through our human eyes. Let’s not forget that dogs have had emotions all along. Let’s not assume they are “catching up” with us in terms of their emotions and behaviors. Maybe they’ve been ahead of us all along.
And let’s not be so surprised — given the centuries man has been choreographing their evolution, and the half century or so they’ve been mostly living inside with us — that they’re picking up some of our habits, good and bad.
While we’re at it, let’s let dogs remain, at least in part, dogs.
Let’s keep in mind, during all this, what we can learn from them. Are dogs lagging behind us, in terms of developing a sense of jealousy, or are they exhibiting a purer form of what we homo sapiens have taken to ridiculous extremes?
And let’s at least keep our minds open to the possibility that, when it comes to what dog and man can learn from each other, we may not always be the teachers, or the role models, in that equation.
(Photos: Ace in Monterey, California, at home on the couch, and with a panhandler in Portland, Maine; by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphization, cognition, dog, dogs, emotions, feelings, guilt, internet, jealousy, media, news, pets, pop culture, remorse, science, society, studies, study, trend, videos, viral, what dogs feel
A family in western Pennsylvania says their schnauzer got so excited about seeing their daughter for the first time in two years that she passed out — the schnauzer, that is.
A video of the reunion was posted on YouTube four days ago.
Rebecca Svetina and her husband, Miha, have been living in Slovenia and returned home to have a wedding reception at the home of Rebecca’s parents in Murrysville.
Miha was recording the reunion to show his relatives overseas how excited Casey gets when Rebecca returns home, but this time, something happened that never happened before – Casey passed out.
“We never expected her to pass out, but luckily she’s fine,” Rebecca told WTAE in Pittsburgh.
“I think our hearts stopped a little bit as well until she came back and started running around, and we knew everything would be OK,” said Miha.
Both were surprised when the video of the 9-year-old schnauzer went viral — approaching 17 million views by this morning — and prompting calls from news organizations around the world.
The next day, we woke up to a crazy day. The views went sky high,” Miha Svetina said. “It’s so genuine. It’s so cute. There are so many things going on in the world. People are actually excited when they see something so nice and dogs are just awesome.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 28th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, casey, dog, dogs, emotions, faints, family, murrysville, passed out, passes out, pennsylvania, pets, rebecca svetina, reunion, reunions, schnauzer, slovenia, video, viral, viral video
The California mayor caught on video flinging a bag of dog poop into a neighbor’s yard has resigned.
Dennis Kneier’s resignation as mayor of San Marino — he’ll remain on the city council — came amid mounting criticism about his behavior in what some have dubbed “Poopgate.”
About 100 community members attended a June 11 city council meeting, where some residents called for Kneier’s resignation.
He offered it, effective immediately, yesterday.
The controversy began after Kneier’s neighbor Philip Lao discovered the small bag of dog poop outside his home.
He reviewed video from his home’s surveillance cameras, which showed Kneier tossing the bag.
San Marino police cited Kneier for littering that same day, and the video, which Lao shared publicly, went viral.
Lao — apparently not good buddies with Kneier — believes the mayor intentionally tossed the bag in retribution for putting a “No Poop Zone” sign outside his home and publicly opposing a proposed dog park, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Our take on all this? We think his honor behaved childishly, and less than honorably, but we also think — when it comes to the amounts of shit politicians routinely sling — Kneier’s poop-pitching was probably both less heinous and less harmful than much of what, historically, has been hurled.
In San Marino, Vice Mayor Eugene Sun will assume mayoral responsibilities through June 27 when the council is scheduled to meet and select a new mayor. Kneier will remain on the City Council until his term ends in November 2015.
In his letter of resignation, Kneier apologized, saying he suffered a moment of bad judgment.
“I thought it would be the very best thing for us to move forward and have a reorganization and have a new mayor,” he said in an interview with NBC in Los Angeles.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bag, california, city council, dennis kneier, dog, dog park, dog poop, dogs, littering, mayor, neighbor, no poop zone, pets, philip lao, politics, poop, resignation, resigned, resigns, san marino, surveillance, tossed, video, viral
“First Kiss,” a video of strangers kissing, has become an Internet sensation.
Like a lot of Internet sensations, it’s kind of stupid, mostly staged, and less than fully honest.
But that hasn’t kept it from being shared by millions, and becoming — in less than a week — the subject of many video parodies, including a dog version we’ll show you in a minute.
It was just last week that “First Kiss” appeared on the Internet, showing, or so it appeared, newly introduced couples — after much foot-shuffling and awkwardness — locking lips on camera.
It garnered more than 30 million views in less than three days, and many viewers, based on comments, found it sweet and heartwarming, almost pure, in a tongue-sucking kind of way.
Director Tatia Pilieva posted the short film on YouTube on March 10, with little explanation. The post didn’t clearly point out the film was an advertisement for a clothing brand’s 2014 line, but said only: ”We asked twenty strangers to kiss for the first time.”
It was a couple of days later that WREN, a Los Angeles womenswear brand, admitted on Twitter that the video was an advertisement, and most of its kissers were actors and models.
Some bloggers went so far to ask if that constituted a “hoax.” Others viewed it as a legitimate “filmvertisement,” and its makers explained they were just trying to make something artistic and interesting.
“We make these fashion films every season,” said WREN founder Melissa Coker. “I strive to make them an interesting film that exists on its own rather than something that feels like a commercial, and it seems to be touching people — not only people who are in fashion and would see this, but also random guys who aren’t connected at all.”
That apparently left some feeling a bit manipulated.
“Knowing it’s an ad is initially forgivable until you realize that the majority of the people kissing are actors and models,” commented a blogger on the website Fstoppers. “Then the veil of whimsy is gone and all that’s left is another well planned, viral advertisement and our suspension of disbelief.”
We wouldn’t go so far as to call “First Kiss” a hoax, and sneaky advertising isn’t anything new. While television, radio and newspapers are all pretty good at passing off advertising as editorial content these days, the Internet makes it simpler than ever — both to disguise advertising and get it published or broadcast for free.
The Internet can also take credit for a rebirth in parodies, many of which have been made of “First Kiss” already — some in better taste than others.
Our favorite, of course, is “First Sniff,” the doggie version, produced by another ad agency, Mother London. Even though it’s staged, its actors aren’t acting — just being their butt-sniffing selves.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertisement, advertising, animals, butt, clothing, dogs, film, filmvertisement, first, first kiss, first sniff, internet sensation, kiss, kissing, kissing dogs, line, marketing, melissa coker, parodies, parody, people, pets, sniffing, tatia pilieva, video, viral, womenswear, wren
You know how frustrated you get when you have to tell your dog something over and over again?
Come here. Come HERE. Listen to me. Get over here right now. Don’t make me say it again. COME HERE!
In this video, the shoe is sort of on the other paw.
John Ventresco, of New Hampshire, is trying to persuade his 11-month-old husky, Blaze, to get into her crate.
Not only does Blaze physically (but peacefully) resist, refusing to budge, but she says what sounds like “no” — 30 times by my count, at least 10 of those quite clearly:
Posted on YouTube just two weeks ago, the video is approaching 5 million views, meaning a lot of people are getting a chuckle, and learning how not to train a dog, and debating whether Ventresco — as gentle and good-humored as his urging is — is going to get bitten one of these days, and, if so, will he have deserved it.
Eventually one of them will have the other properly trained, I’m just not sure if it will be Ventresco or Blaze. Right now, it appears to be a draw.
The bigger question it raises, to me, anyway, is whether the day will come when dogs really do talk. I predict it will — that they will someday talk, on their own, without the aid of implants, headsets, devices that monitor their brain waves and apps that translate what they’re thinking into words.
Several projects are underway that do just that — because we humans want to know what’s going on in their heads, and we want to know now, and somebody somewhere thinks it might make some money.
We’ll take advantage of technology to bring that about and get it on the market as soon as possible, rather than wait a few hundred or thousand more years when, I’d venture, dogs will have evolved to the point that they’re talking on their own anyway.
It’s only natural for that to happen, with them living so closely to us, observing us around the clock, and watching too much TV. They will continue to pick up our skills – learning to operate a remote control, warming up some chicken nuggets, uttering words, then entire phrases.
Mark my words. By the year 2525 (and that’s just a wild guess), dogs will be saying “yes” and “no,” and more:
I want to go outside for a while.
But wait, there’s more. Details at 11. Ohmigod, they killed Kenny. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night.
Put me in that damn crate again and, I swear, I’m going to call my attorney.
They may never have as sophisticated a vocabulary as us, may never be as erudite, snotty, self-promoting and adept at making barbed comments as us. But the day will come that they use words.
The question is not whether dogs will someday learn to talk. It’s whether, when they do, we’ll listen.
We already stink at that — in terms of listening to our fellow humans, and in terms of hearing what our dogs are silently saying. We’re so dependent on words we don’t hone our wordless communication skills, even though that mode is often more honest and meaningful.
My fear is that, through continued domicile-sharing with humans, dogs are going to learn to talk, but also – like Blaze, like Ventresco — not to listen.
It all brings to mind some lyrics from a song that has nothing to do with dogs — Don McLean’s “Vincent.” When you think about it, the misunderstood artist and modern day dog have much in common. We wonder what they’re trying to say, fail to see their brilliance, and don’t appreciate them fully until they’re gone.
Instead, often, we taunt, ridicule and shame them.
How much shorter might Van Gogh’s career have been, how many appendages might he have lopped off, were he around in the Internet age, reading nasty comments from people about his paintings?
How much quicker might the civil rights movement have progressed if people had shut up and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., the first time?
Are we getting any better at listening, or quicker to turn a deaf ear?
As the song “Vincent” says:
They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…
Let’s give it a listen.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 20th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apps, artist, behavior, biology, blaze, civility, cognition, comments, communication, crate, devices, dog talk, dog training, dogs, don mclean, evolution, headsets, humans, husky, impatience, implants, internet, kennel, listen, listening, martin luther king, martin luther king jr, misunderstood, mlk, mlk day, no!, noooo, persuasion, pets, refusal, repetition, resistance, siberian husky, skills, starry starry night, stubborness, talking, talking dogs, technology, thoughts, training, translation, van gogh, video, vincent, viral, vocabulary, vocalizing, what part of no don't you understand, words, youtube
A story of brotherly love — canine style — has spread from Philadelphia across the world after a shelter volunteer posted a photo of two snuggling pit bulls, one of whom helps his blind brother get around.
The photos of Jermaine and his blind brother Jeffrey have received more than 3.2 million views.
Kimberly Cary, a volunteer with the Chester County SPCA posted pictures on Facebook late last week of the 8-month-old puppies, their legs wrapped around each other as they slept at the shelter.
“It has just touched the hearts of people all around the world,” Tom Hickey, a board member with the Chester County SPCA, said Sunday
Jeffrey is completely blind in one eye and probably sees only shadows in the other. He leans on Jermaine and follows him around when they are in unfamiliar territory. The pair is considered inseparable.
“These guys are bonded, and Jeffrey really is dependent on Jermaine at this point,” said Ray Little, lifesaving director of Philadelphia’s Operation Ava animal shelter. “When they are separated, they get really insecure.”
As of Sunday afternoon, no one had completed an application to adopt the brothers, but people from as far away as the U.K. were expressing a desire to take them in.
“I wish people realized that just because you’ve seen them doesn’t mean they’ve been adopted,” said Cary, 28, who posted the Facebook photos Thursday and Friday on the request of Operation Ava. “They still need somebody to come rescue them.”
Jermaine and Jeffrey both had mange when they were rescued, but they are “happy” and in “very good health now,” Little said.
The dogs will be held at Operation Ava until they are adopted as a pair.
“They obviously have some sort of innate bond,” said Emily Simmons, executive director of the Chester County SPCA, “and it will be wonderful to see them adopted together.”
To learn more about adopting the pair, contact Operation Ava at 215-240-1240.
(Photos: Chester County SPCA)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 18th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, blind, brotherly love, brothers, chester county spca, dogs, facebook, jeffrey, jermaine, loyalty, operation ava, pets, philadelphia, photos, pit bulls, pitbulls, posts, rescues, shelters, snuggling, viral
Time.com says this video shows some interspecies teamwork.
I’m not seeing it.
I’m seeing a dog (Gizmo) waiting patiently for a cat (Dexter) to open the kitchen door.
If that’s teamwork, then I, from the comfort of my couch, am a professional football player. (I’ll take my salary now please.) Then again, I guess spectators do their part, simply by spectating.
This video was the result of a camera set up by a couple trying to figure out how their pets were escaping from the kitchen.
Turned out the cat was both the apparent mastermind and the door-opener, which is no big surprise given Dexter, being a cat, is more conniving than Gizmo — not too mention far more dexterous.
Does that mean Dexter is smarter than Gizmo?
Not necessarily. We think Gizmo is the wiser one, taking an approach that says, “You take the risks, you make the play; I’ll sit back and watch. If you’re successful, I’ll say say ‘yay!’ and reap whatever bounties lay beyond the kitchen door.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 23rd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, behavior, camera, cat opens door for dog, cats, dexter, dexterous, dogs, door, doorknob, gizmo, open, opening, opens, pets, skills, smarter, teamwork, video, viral, viral video