Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Do Dogs Pant?

Dogs pant for two reasons: to expel heat--it’s how they perspire-- and to relax. One reason why dogs pant is that they get rid of a lot of stress when they pant. In fact, if you are with a dog who is tense, an old-time trick we’ve been using for a hundred years is to just start running that critter down the street and within a half a block, almost every dog in the world will start panting because they build up internal heat real quick.

They’ll start panting to get rid of that heat and the baby goes out with the bath water—along with all the heat goes a lot of the stress and uptightedness. So you manage to get rid of a lot of stress in the dog by taking advantage of a mandatory physiological response in the dog. So dogs need to pant to get rid of heat and at the same time they are releasing stress.

Keep this in mind if you ever consider putting a muzzle on your dog--your dog can't pant and cool himself if he has a muzzle on.

by Dr. Dennis Fetko, "Dr. Dog"

What About That Wagging Tail?

So a dog’s wagging tail means he’s feeling friendly--wrong! One of my favorite statements I hear is: “Don’t ever worry about a dog whose tail is wagging because they’re all friendly, right?” Well, a dog can be wagging like crazy in the back and ripping your spleen out up front.

A wagging dog tail means excitement, not friendship. Now granted, 95% of the time you see a dog wagging his tail, the dog will mean, “Oooh, a friend!” But the dog's wagging tail could also mean, “Lance, look at this banquet”. Wagging dog tails mean excitement. Now they can go up or straight out or down or whatever depending on the degree of aggression and dominance, etc. The important thing is that just because you see movement in the back doesn’t mean everything is ok up front.

Other things you can read from dogs’ tails:
· Wagging tail slowly in horizontal direction shows caution
· A stationary tail indicates relaxation
· A low, tucked tail shows fear or submission.

So, "reading" your dog's wagging tail is a great window into what he is feeling!

by Dr. Dennis Fetko, "Dr. Dog"

Do Dogs Have Emotions?

Dogs have a highly evolved social system that includes sharing, bonding, pecking order, affection, protection and more. Dogs have a wide emotional range. Dogs feel emotions such as fear, anger, stress, security and attachment much as we do. Far from being just animated toys, dogs are complex social animals with behaviors uniquely their own.

Human beings are prone to two kinds of emotion. One could be called “pure” emotion and the other “impure”. A pure emotion is something you feel with no thought process--you don’t have to think about it. If somebody angers or insults you, you don’t have to decide to get angry. And you certainly don’t decide to fall in love or decide to feel sorrow at the death of a loved one.

Impure emotions such as self-pity, guilt or remorse do require a thought process. If you don’t stop and think about those things, they won’t occur. Dogs have our identical emotional makeup in the realm of pure emotion. However, they don’t think about them so they don’t feel guilt about the past or worry about the future, for example. Dog's emotions are purely in the here and now.

In interacting with dogs, remember that dogs feed on emotion. Dogs' emotions are very sensitive to your emotional projections.

by Dr. Dennis Fetko, Ph.D., "Dr. Dog"

Dogs' Sense of Hearing

More here on dog's senses, since we are better at "talkin' dog" when we understand what the dog is perceiving...

It has actually been measured that a dog’s normal sense of hearing is 28 times more sensitive than normal human hearing. So when dogs can hear a mouse at 50 yards, that’s quite a feat!

Dogs can hear a much wider range of sounds than humans. Dogs can sense sounds in the ultrasonic range as high as 50,000 Hz. In comparison, humans can pick up an average of 20,000 Hz. Some dog trainers teach dogs by training dogs to respond to different commands given on whistles that produce ultra high frequencies to reach the dog's unique sense of hearing.

Also, since dogs’ ears can move in different directions, they can pinpoint the exact location of the origin of a sound. You will see dogs’ ears prick up and move around. The cupped shape of their ears helps maximize sounds for them and enhance the dog's sense of hearing.

by Dennis Fetko, Ph.D. "Dr. Dog"

Dogs' Sense of Smell

In the behavioral realm it is critically important that we have at least an insight into how dogs perceive things because most of mammal behavior is a response to what we perceive. I usually say that dogs can hear your hair grow and smell you change your mind!

Dogs’ sense of smell is their most highly developed sense. You’ll hear stories about how dogs can smell a thousand times better than we can or ten thousand times—that’s all just guess. Dogs’ sense of smell is so good that we can’t even measure it!

Dog’s sense of smell can only be approximated. Of the machines that measure how things smell, the most sensitive is the gas chromatograph. It is so sensitive that it can detect one part per trillion in a test atmosphere.

A dog can smell from 40 feet away what a chromatograph cannot detect at the source! That is inconceivable to us!

The medical community has been researching the utility of the dog’s incredible sense of smell in diagnosing certain medical conditions. Dogs are already being used to sense low blood sugar and to warn of epileptic seizures. Evidence also shows that dogs can differentiate between healthy skin cells and cancerous ones. It is theorized that certain disease conditions cause subtle chemical changes in the body or changes in metabolism, which dogs can detect through smell.

We all hear of dogs being used to track criminals or victims and search for drugs or explosives. How about dogs tracking dogs? Dr. Keith Richter, a veterinarian in San Diego, tells this story:

“One of the doctors at our animal hospital had a dog
that ran away. There’s a search and rescue dog in
the state of Washington that specializes in finding lost
pets. We flew that dog, who has over 4,000 “finds”,
down to San Diego. He’s a little 20-pound mutt—
a gifted dog. He went out and three miles later, he
found the dog. It was just incredible!”

by Dennis Fetko, Ph.D.