Undeniably, Penny elicits affection when she tilts her head and
looks inquisitively at us, but what is she thinking when she looks
at us? Does she see a human that she loves? Does she
see a human that she has learned is a source for food? Does
she see her pack leader?
Dogs spend a great deal of time watching humans, observing our
movements and noticing our habits. Because of this, dogs have
become very good at reading our behavior, including subtle
differences in our behavior. Dogs respond to our gestures,
follow our gaze and pay attention to our body language.
Because their sense of smell is so powerful, they may be able to
pick up changes in our scent when we are afraid. Dogs have
been our companions for thousands of years and have become
sensitive to our cues.
I have often heard people question how a dog knows that a walk
is next on the agenda just by the way a person has gotten off the
sofa. The assumption is that the way you get off the sofa, or
the ritual of getting off the sofa before a walk is slightly
different than the way you get off the sofa to get a glass of
water. Dogs notice those things.
While the field of neuroscience is unlocking the secrets of the
human brain, some researchers are also using brain scans to unleash
how dogs think. One particular study relies on MRI's of
voluntary canine participants so that brain images can be
explored. The hope is that this exploration will lead to an
understanding of canine cognition and inter-species
Until that time, I am happy to look back at Penny and feel warm
and fuzzy because of my assumption that she sees me and loves me