Yes, of course they do. Every dog owner comes to recognize their dog’s moods from body language and facial expressions, from the noises their pet makes and from the very way their dog moves. We instinctively know whether our dogs are excited, happy, sad, frustrated or anxious.
Nonetheless, it has long been a topic of hot debate amongst behavioral experts largely because it’s very hard to quantify or measure emotions. While it’s clear that your dog has a rich emotional life, scientists cannot measure exactly how happy or fearful he may be. Thus, many have chosen to ignore emotions and the fact that they play any role in how a dog learns to behave or express himself.
Recent research has demonstrated that all mammals, dogs included, have seven fundamental, basic, emotional systems that provide the ability to react to information about what enters the brain via the senses. These “magnificent seven” include a seeking system to look for food, a fear system to respond to unfamiliar events that may be dangerous, a play system and a care system to raise offspring and form vital social attachments.
Recognizing that dogs have emotions is helping to drive progress in other fields, such as dealing with behavioral problems, like aggression, excessive grooming, and nervousness. Typically assessment is in three stages;
- An emotional assessment of the dog at the time the problem is observed
- A mood state assessment of how the dog feels and behaves generally
- A reinforcement assessment of exactly which factors, external and internal, are maintaining the problem behavior, often in spite of many varied attempts to remove it.
By taking into account the emotions dogs feel, rather than simply looking at how they behave, animal behaviorists are now learning to get to grip with solving these problems much more effectively. One of our expert trainers should be able to assist you with your dog’s behavioral issues. For more information please visit Training.