My wife Nancee’ and I were asleep when I heard Kova, a dog I was boarding, bark an angry bark from his travel crate on the porch. A second later we heard scratching just below our bedroom window that scared Nancee. BEAR!!! Simultaneously, I realized I forgot to let our 2 house dogs back into the house before coming to bed. After her heart returned to normal, Nancee’ asked me how the dogs knew, from outside in the dark, where we were in the house. Then she asked me if I thought Kova was letting us know the dogs needed to be let in.
I’ve raised, trained and sold dogs for over 50 years and I’ve seen dogs do some amazing things. I’ve also researched dogs that amazed me. The best was a trained military dog that was able to find panes of glass buried under a foot under sand in several feet of saltwater. How was this accomplished? I have no answers but others do.
According to Animal Science, neuroscientist Gregory Burns who has been running MRIs on dogs at Emory University in Atlanta says, “I think our dogs experience things very much the way we do.” Dogs have been in our lives for over 15,000 years and today 44% of families in the US have at least one dog, meaning a population of around 80 million dogs.
“Dogs don’t have language but they communicate with their eyes, barks and expressive body moves” says Juliana Kaminski, director of the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, in England. “A system has developed in which both species – ours and theirs – attend to each other’s needs.” Canine research centers in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Italy, Austria, Australia and elsewhere are looking for answers. Dogs can read gazes, human faces and can identify geometric shapes and sort of count and choose the shape that has more. Dogs do better than 3-4 year olds at learning bad behavior. Kids and dogs were given a lever to open a box for food, and then after the lever was disabled dogs simply opened the box while children continued to turn the worthless handle.
One thing that can’t be measured is a dog’s loyalty, barking to warn owners of fire, help owners when injured, need protection, helping the blind, answering phones and sniffing out drugs and bombs. For years my dogs have found downed game like ducks and pheasants with hand signals and verbal commands, something only a handful of other animals can do.
Researchers have placed toys in containers, walked behind a screen to remove the object from the container and then returned out front with the empty container. Some dogs were able to follow that chain of events and concluded that the object was behind the screen and went back to get it. If the object, say a biscuit, was placed behind the screen and then replaced with another object, like a ball, the dogs would stare at it knowing it was switched, understanding that concept.
It’s simply a love affair. Who doesn’t love puppies? It’s an interspecies bond. There are ancient stories of wolf pups and human babies that seem like the same relationships kids and puppies have now. Simply put: dogs love us and we love them.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at email@example.com