Skip to comments.Scientific look at dog's mind sheds light on master's love
Posted on 09/26/2004 7:50:43 PM PDT by freedom44
Stanley Coren has a solution to help fix Canada's ailing health care system: Prescribe dogs to isolated seniors and others with medical needs.
Arguably one of the world's foremost authorities on man's best friend, Coren says the elderly are less likely to get depressed and heart attack victims are more likely to live longer if they own a dog.
"If we measure what happened when you touch a familiar and friendly dog, what we find is your breathing becomes more regular, your muscles relax, your heart rates slows, you show all the signs of reduced stress," Coren says, citing a study.
Another study showed couples with a dog are less likely to get divorced.
Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, but there is still plenty to learn about them, which is what Coren, 62, does when he's not teaching psychology at the University of British Columbia.
Coren, who is lecturing this afternoon in downtown Toronto, has written several best-selling books, among them The Intelligence Of Dogs and How To Speak Dog. With his latest, How Dogs Think, Coren uses recent scientific studies to examine what is actually going on in the dog's mind.
Among his conclusions: dogs have the mental ability of a 2-year-old, have consciousness similar to our consciousness, are capable of primitive counting and equations and have social cognition that enables them to learn by watching.
"That is going to upset some biologists and a whole lot of philosophers. But that's tough," he says with a laugh. "In science, we work in tiny little increments and I think we're getting much closer to an acceptance of this viewpoint."
He says he wrote the book because glossy, picture books, basic training books and veterinary books with medical advice weren't doing the job.
"There's not a lot out there just on how dogs think, how dogs behave and what's going on inside that little furry skull of theirs."
He wrote it for the average reader, but also for academics who may be inspired to go more in-depth and will now have a starting point. Much of the research, such as a chapter on how dogs learn by observation, is recent.
"Ten years ago, that chapter would not have existed," he says. "We did not believe that existed at all. That's exciting stuff."
One of the surprising findings is that dogs are a completely different species than wolves. Dogs, Coren says, are a species humans have essentially created. And recent European research suggests they are socially closer to humans than the great apes.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- `They are not the same as wild animals....We've invented them to be our best friend' --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"They are not the same as wild animals," he says.
"We started creating them and we have really good archaeological evidence that says we've been systematically modifying these beasts to fit into our lives and respond to human communication for at least 14,000 years.
"We've invented them to be our best friend."
Coren established a track record in psychology with best-selling books on lefthandedness and sleep disorders, followed by several books on dogs. He has also hosted four seasons of Good Dog, a popular Life network show.
What sets him apart from other dog experts, he says, are dual specialties, a Ph.D. in human psychology, preceded by training in animal psychology.
"That's really important, because a lot of the stuff that goes on involves the interaction between the human being and the dog and...my main interest in life is in the human-animal bond.
"Part of maintaining that bond is not just telling you what you should and should not do....Part of it is to explain to people what's going on inside the dog's head, so that they can do the right things and avoid the wrong things."
Coren emphasizes that, regarding communication, the dog is equivalent to a toddler.
"We have this tendency to mix-up athleticism and coordination with intelligence," he says. It confuses us that dogs "move like an Olympic athlete" but have the understanding of a 2-year-old.
"If you lay on top of that the social concerns of the human teenager, like who's moving up in the pack and who's moving down, then in fact you've got a handle on how your dog thinks."
Dog lovers won't need much convincing, since dogs are increasingly being treated like children. Cultural changes have made dogs an important part of a household, Coren believes.
Extended families sharing a neighbourhood have disappeared. We're no longer surrounded by grandparents, cousins and other relatives whom we can touch, interact with and feel support from. But we have our dogs.
"Nobody feels embarrassed bending down to pet the dog, to talk baby talk to the dog. The dog comes over and looks into your eyes, washes your face with his tongue, whatever else that gives you the same kind of social support which an extended family used to be able to give you. And there is all sorts of evidence which says that this is psychologically incredibly important."
Dogs are like babies. Single women usually treat them like the child they never have.
You live longer because they make you exercise.
You may walk them - which is great.
But at the very least you have to get up off your couch potato butt and let them out so they don't crap and pee all over your house.
Extrasensory connection to the dog's brain, my butt.
Pairing dogs with seniors sounds good to me. My grandparents got alot of comfort from their springer spaniel. Besides the obvious benefits it could probably save money in the long run.
" dogs still bark at the moon, eat crap, and chase rabbits"
Maybe yours but not mine.
The fact that Muslims treat dogs like they do says a lot. Oh, sorry. That was rather un-PC of me.
They are stubborn, and I'm sure my blood pressure goes thru the roof after a bout with 'house training'........everytime I think he getting it.......he poops on the rug.
(He is a very sweet little fella, we'll be fine, once he gets trained)
My four pound Pomeranian just ate my couch, so my blood pressure is up, I'm stressed, and I'm too scared to touch her because I might end up wearing her for a house shoe.
The Koreans eat them.
Does that make them live longer ???
I knew dog was good for you.
Hah. Man created dogs my patootie.
Dogs created man...to feed them table scraps, put a roof over their heads, put up fences to keep out those nasty cougars and such, and to scratch the itches they can't reach.
You've never owned an Ibizan Hound.
Mine rule me like a pack of furry Svengalis....:)
"To his dog every man is a Napoleon, hence the lasting popularity of dogs."
Babies are like dogs, Married women treat them like the puppies they never had. BMNPML! :)
Douse what's left of your sofa with it.
My ~200 pound pyrenees lays around 22 hours a day.
Low maintenance, needs an hour or so a day to eat and doodoo.
Otherwise, if he has to get up, it better be to bite or kill something.
More evidence that Islam is evil.
Sons of Monkey's, Pigs, and Dogs.
Devil Dogs rule. =) Islmofascists drool.
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