Dogs Make Us happy, Does Our Happiness Make Them Happy?

Admittedly I am biased, but how could these faces not bring a grin to yours? I know they make me laugh every day!

Although there were so many things we learned during the c/t contest on the Training Levels Yahoo Group one thing I loved seeing was how we reacted to a simple game with our 4legged friends.

One point of the contest was to help us improve our clicker skills. There are other things I have done to try and increase my skills such as clicking when a commercial changes or when a traffic light changes. I know others have tried these and other tricks also. But this game has a motivating benefit that the dogs love it. When you are watching them “hoover” up the treats one after another, clearly thinking they won the treat lottery, their joy is contagious.

As the times started pouring in people were getting faster and faster. And people kept trying and reporting over and over, making and posting video’s. (Which you should really check out!) I have to wonder would we all have got so excited over contest to click commercials? I think the fact that the dogs loved this game so much made us love it.

So does that work in reverse? Could our excitement have been helping our dogs be excited? Was our joy helping them be “in the game”? I think so. (And I’m sure the treats didn’t hurt!)

What other anecdotal evidence is there that joy is contagious no matter how many legs you have? Meeka is good example. If we start laughing, at anything, she will nearly always respond with excitement. Even if something strikes us funny on the t.v. she responds to our reaction.

How? She turns into “wild-girl”. Wriggling, prancing, nubbin waggin’, growly and woofing. The more excited we get the more excited she gets. Is she joyful because we are? I’d like to think so.

Maizey? She expresses her joy starting with her tail. My grandpa says its like a flag waving in the wind. When she is happy it’s like a sail that moves the rest of her body. (I love tails!) She also seems to think happy or sad Maizey kisses are the best way to let you know she’s with you.

My conclusions about dogs and human emotions? Anyone that shares their life with a 4legged friend knows that our pups react to us, happy or sad. But we know even more is that our pups stimulate and motivate our emotions. Even if the only  emotion is loving them!


Is It Raining Treats In Your House?

Due to the sky raining treats in return for them doing nothing but eating them, Maizey and Meeka have had a fun couple of days!

Why has the sky been raining treats? Because we have been playing at a contest on the Training Levels Yahoo Group.

The contest was to test a handlers click/treat (c/t) abilities. The rules were to time how long it took to c/t 15 treats. All the dogs had to do was start to eat each treat as it hit the ground and the handler could c/t again. Trust me this was more challenging than it sounds!

For those of you not familiar with clicker training it is not difficult, but it is a skill. As all skills do, it takes some precision, good timing, and great observation skills. So this was a quite clever way of showing most of us that we had room for improvement in our c/t abilities.

But how to improve with out confusing our dogs? I am so uncoordinated that I am not even allowed to play games where round objects must be propelled into circles for points, so timing and accuracy has been a challenge. Especially when shaping you usually have something in mind as an end goal for your pup, so the c/t are timed very carefully. If not timed correctly you may sabotage your pups understanding and success. Thus the skill part is important. More precision means the pup gets better information and is more successful.

This is where the contest showed me a new tool. Because all the girls had to do was eat and that pretty much guarantees their success, I could turn my ‘observation skills’ towards myself. At the same time they still thought this was the greatest game ever invented!

But it also taught us all a lot of other lessons. Everything from dog size to treat size and type was examined. And if you really want a treat click over to the group and watch some of the videos-very creative trainers they are over there!

What was the winning time? A three way tie: 15 treats in 8 seconds! Congratulations to those machine gun click/treaters! And our score? Maizey: 15 treats in 17.9 seconds. Meeka: 15 treats in 17.6 seconds.

Congratulations to our Big Girl! So what about you? Want to see your 4legged friend think they are in treat heaven? Then give the contest a try and let us know your results!


Maizey’s Reaction to Human Emotions

Yesterday: Little Man and Meeka’s reaction to sadness. Today: Maizey.

Maizey is an interesting case. She is most certainly affected by sadness, and I would go so far as to say by discomfort in humans. She has a very interesting way of expressing this concern. She thinks she should smash her face into yours. (We affectionately call this “face hugs”.) She also will lick your face, if allowed. Apparently in Maizey world the way to comfort someone is to basically smother them with Cavalier ears!

The differences in Maizey’s concern though are fascinating. While she most certainly is emotionally enmeshed (to continue a theme) with me, her concern is not limited to me. I have seen her try to comfort many of our 2legged friends in this way.

Once I even saw her try to give face hugs to a friend whom I have never seen her physically interact with very much at all. The only thing perceptible to me that was wrong with our friend was that she had the flu, but Maizey obviously thought she needed cheering up cause she hopped right up onto her chest and proceeded to smother her in cavalier ears! It worked too, as we all got a good laugh out of it, but being smothered by cavalier ears and kisses is something not too many would truly appreciate for long!

Another difference in Maizey’s reaction to human sadness is the effect it has on her. Unlike Little Man she does show classic signs of stress to severe sorrow. I have seen “Wale” or “pop eye”, easily observed in great big Cavalier eyes. Also increased panting, and heart rate. Pacing and general nervousness are other things I have observed.

She not only exhibits the drive to comfort human sadness, she seems to be personally affected by it. Her sorrow at human sorrow? Again I’m not going to go that far, perhaps it is more on the level of personal survival. If I, as one of the key 2legged members of her pack is unstable does she perceive it as a threat to her stability? I really don’t know how she is perceiving it, I just know that she obviously is in some way.

"You okay crazyhumanperson? I can smother you if it will help!"

Obviously there are so many layers to this subject which I am (obviously) not qualified to address. Kathleen commented in the last post about emotions the difference in breeds, (“sneak peek: Rotties were ranked low for “Demand for Affection” and “Excitability”").

But it is not only breed that affects how a 4legged friend will react. What about sex, intact or not, history, etc. etc. etc. Hopefully as we go through these posts we may come to some conclusions about these matters. And at the end of it all, why does it matter so much? On this I have some definite theories in the making!

First though, what about the other end of the spectrum? What about joy and happiness? Or excitement? Please again inspire me: How do your pups react to human happiness? After you have given me your stories come on back and see what I have observed of this in my 4legged friends.


Dogs and Human Emotions

Being a fairly (ok very would be more appropriate) emotional person myself, I have always been fascinated by the response my pups have to my own emotions.

I also try to observe how these interactions work with other 2leggers and their 4legged friends. While by no means a scientific process, it is fascinating. At least to me.

Humans have such a range of emotions and some dogs seem to be oblivious to these displays, though I suspect their reaction is just one that I can not observe. Other pups though seem to be affected greatly by human emotion.

Case in point my Little Man, a poodle I had from three months until he died last year at 16. When I felt sad he would never leave my side. When I cried he would lick me, where ever he could find skin. He would not stop licking until I stopped crying and was calm, unless I made him. He didn’t seem to be affected by other emotions as much, but he could not stand it if I was upset.

Anthropomorphizing? I’m sure, but how do you speak of emotions in animals without anthropomorphizing? Emotion is expressed in human words, terms coined to describe the human observation of the concept so in my opinion there is no way to compare reactions in animals without speaking of it in human terms.

Does this mean that Little Man felt sorrow when I felt sorrow? I am not prepared to take it that far, but what I do believe is that he was affected in some way on a dog brain level by my sorrow, and felt it was his “job” to comfort me.

And while I don’t know if I would say he did so because he felt sorrow, I also know he did not exhibit any signs of stress as we know to observe them in our 4legged friends. When he had performed his self appointed job and comforted me to the level he felt appropriate he would become his normal placid self and go on with his day, so to speak.

(Most of his days involved laying where ever he could to be close to me, he was a lazy little bugger!)

What I know with certainty is that He did comfort me and I was emotionally enmeshed, if you want to use another human term, with him. Not even one day goes by that I do not still miss him. Not one.

Now for comparison purposes take Meeka. She is as solid and stable girl as I ever knew. In a comment a while back one of my readers called her “unflappable”. I absolutely love that word to describe her. She seems to notice if I am upset, but she does not have the drive to comfort me. She can continue what ever she is doing with out the need to investigate me and my emotion.

So does she “not care” about me? Not at all, she shows eager excitement when I come home, willingness to please, and desire to come and go with me. Signs I feel show her attachment to me. But she is not affected by my upset the same as LIttle Man was, or as Maizey is.

"Unflappable? Yup that's me!"

Since Maizey, as usual, is an interesting case all on her own check back with us soon to compare her reaction to human emotions.

Until then what about your pups? Do they seem to be more the Little Man type who are affected by emotions, or the unflappable meeka type who don’t seem to notice as much? And not just with sorrow, but what about any of the range of human emotions?

In a future post I want to compare my 4legged friends reaction to joy and happiness, or excitement. So if you have a post, or a story about any of these go ahead and leave it, you know how I love to be inspired by anecdotal evidence!