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Inside dogs' brains

Inside dogs' brains
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“Dogs are smarter than most people give them credit for and there’s no denying that they have a mind of their own and can experience a range of emotions including guilt, joy, frustration and grief,” says Linda Simon, a licensed veterinarian. For instance, we’ve all witnessed the “sad eyes” of a dog being reprimanded or that brief look of disgust on their face when the cat gets the treat instead of them. There have even been accounts of bereaved dogs who have waited loyally for their deceased owners to return. Clearly, they’re thinking about something.

But what, exactly, are our dogs thinking about as they go about their lives?

It’s important to avoid “anthropomorphising” your pet – attributing human thoughts and characteristics to non-humans because that assumes they see, think and feel the same way you do, Simon says. To bond with your dog, it’s important to try to understand what they’re thinking rather than putting your thoughts on them, she says.

Here are some common thoughts that dogs have:

“Hey, I love you!”

“Hey, I love you!”
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Dogs, unlike other pets, are often quite open in letting us know how they feel about us. “There’s a reason we refer to them as man’s best friend,” Simon says. “When your dog jumps up on you as you walk through the door, wags their tail when they spot you from afar and covers you in slobbery kisses, you can be confident they’re thinking ‘Hey, this person is pretty swell!’” she says.

To make sure you get the message, check out these 28 ways your pet is trying to say “I love you.”

“You hurt my feelings!”

“You hurt my feelings!”
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“Some dogs are particularly sensitive to criticism and may exhibit signs of anxiety when being reprimanded, such as hiding away or even trembling,” Simon says. “Other dogs will act quite unfazed by a good scolding or even cocky, and as soon as you’re done, it’s clear they’re not thinking about it at all anymore.” However, it is important to recognise if you have a sensitive dog and use a positive training program to help allay their anxiety, she says.

This is what your dog actually wants you to know.

“Fido was here too!”

“Fido was here too!”
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Dogs love to check their “pee-mail,” by sniffing at various locations around your neighbourhood or on walks. This isn’t just a territorial instinct, it’s also a way of looking to see what other dogs have been there, says veterinarian Heather Venkat. “As they sniff, they take in a lot of information about a lot of other dogs, not to mention other animals and humans,” she says.

Hint: Not letting your dog sniff things on a walk is one of the 16 things dogs hate when you do.

“Does that bird want to play tag?”

“Does that bird want to play tag?”
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Naturally inquisitive, your dog is always on the lookout for wild animals like lizards, birds, or rabbits, Venkat says. “Your dog is wondering where those animals are and if they can play with them or interact with them,” she says. Unfortunately, dogs may be too rough in their play or their predatory instincts may kick in and they see critters as food so it’s best to keep them on a leash and let them look at the wildlife from afar.

“Never fear, I will guard the little humans!”

“Never fear, I will guard the little humans!”
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Protection of the pack comes naturally to dogs and many owners have noticed that their dog spends extra time watching over their children. “Dogs who spend a lot of time around children and play with them from a young age can develop beautiful relationships,” Simon says. “Things can work out especially well if the dog is young when the baby arrives, meaning they can mature together and become each other’s playmate.”

Enjoy these beautiful pics of little kids and their big dogs. 

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“Dog? What’s a dog?”

“Dog? What’s a dog?”
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Some dogs, particularly those who do not live with other dogs or were not well socialised when they were puppies, think far more about their two-legged friends than they do about their canine buddies, Simon says, “These dogs likely don’t give a whole lot of thought to dogs in general, their humans are their ‘pack,” she says. “You can tell if your dog thinks this way if they ignore other dogs when out on a walk.”

This is why your dog likes to sniff other dogs’ butts.

“What is this new thing and why does it keep making that noise?”

“What is this new thing and why does it keep making that noise?”
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Having a new baby is a seismic shift for the whole family, dogs included. “When a new baby comes home you’ll see them trying to figure out how they are supposed to play with it, the proper way to behave around it, and likely wondering why it keeps crying,” Venkat says.

“The postman will kill us all – but not on my watch!”

“The postman will kill us all – but not on my watch!”
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“Dogs are always thinking about how to protect their family from any outside threats,” Venkat says. Unfortunately, their assessment of a threat may be different than yours, causing them to go on high alert for neighbours, mail carriers, or the cat down the road. Regardless, they are always ready to leap to your defence (or just bark like they would).

“It’s dinnertime! Why don’t they know it’s dinnertime! Maybe I should tell them it’s dinnertime?”

“It’s dinnertime! Why don’t they know it’s dinnertime! Maybe I should tell them it’s dinnertime?”
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“We know that dogs like a routine, it makes them feel secure and cared for. So, if you have a routine, it’s probably quite easy to know what your dog is thinking about,” says Julie James, a dog behaviour expert. They also have ways of letting their humans know what part of their schedule is on their mind!

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