Features July 2011 Issue

What Does The Dog Think?

Not long ago, scientists were reluctant to give nonhuman animals credit for having emotions. We’re past that now, but there is still lots of debate about and inquiry into their cognition.

What Does The Dog Think?

Some thoughts on – and recognition of – canine cognition and emotions.

Current research has demonstrated that many species, including our beloved canines, share brain circuitry very similar to the human part of the brain that controls emotion – the amygdala and the periaqueductal grey. While there’s no doubt among most dog lovers that dogs have emotions, this concept is still being discussed in the halls of academia. Some insist that even though animals show emotional behaviors that we can observe, we can’t assume the behaviors mean the animals who display them have emotional feelings. (I don’t know how anyone can think this, but some scientists really do!) Others, such as the esteemed neurobiologist Dr. Jaak Panskepp of Washington State University, argue that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s probably a duck!

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