Animals – Why do dogs like to imitate us – Wikipedia

Bad Bramstedt/Bern (dpa/tmn) – “Ninety percent of life with a dog consists of chasing each other to see what the other is eating.” This wisdom circulating on social networks may be a bit exaggerated.

But one thing is true: We not only watch our furry friends, they watch us too. “All the time!” says animal psychologist Patricia Loach. And not just when it comes to herding dogs like the Australian Shepherd.

“Even if we think they’re lying in the corner and having a good time, they’re always focused on us,” says the president of the Professional Association of Animal Behavior Counsellors and Trainers. Why do they do this? For example, because it is her job.

Hund scans and copies and thus becomes part of the system

On the other hand, since the 35,000-year history of domestication would have ensured a certain convergence: “Dogs examine their environment especially intensely and look for changes. They want to feel safe, as part of the system, and they have to see that they have a position in it to keep.” On the contrary, this means: the less they care, the less they care, the less importance they have in society. They want or should avoid it.

But dogs can’t just watch us. Some dog owners think they can sense what we think. “It may be too much to say. But they can perceive how we feel,” says behavioral biologist Stefanie Riemer of HundeUni – Wissenschaft Meets Praxis https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/. Because in the research there are definitely indications that dogs are capable of empathy. Just like babies who cry when their mothers blood is drawn.

Compassionate Empathy Found in Studies

Evidence of so-called “merciful empathy” can be found in studies where dogs encountered a stranger who was crying. Instead of responding uncertainly and turning to their caregiver, many dogs would have cared for a crying test person. “They can perceive emotions and respond to them in a way that respects them,” says Reimer, who led a research group on dog behavior at the University of Bern for several years.

The meaning behind this is clear. Both dogs and humans are highly social creatures. “It’s the advantage of being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes in order to predict how the other person will act.” It helps to be able to predict the behavior and note: If the other person is angry and you approach them, I will be attacked.

Advantage 2: When I observe others and see how they react to something new and potentially dangerous, I don’t have to try it myself. Finally, I also feel when a group member feels fear or pain. “If you get along with each other and say, ‘If you help me, I will help you,’ it benefits all the members of the group,” Reemer says.

Dogs’ specialties: the ability to read people

In the course of domestication history, dogs have specialized in being able to read humans well. “They know what reinforces our nurturing behavior when they react to our feelings,” says the behavioral biologist.

There is no evidence that dogs consciously “play” a fearful behavior such as twitching or tail pinching in order to get more attention. However, some seem to know exactly what to do to be taken care of by their owners. “Some can limp right away because they know they’re going to screw up afterwards,” says Patricia Loach. “Others tilt their heads and look so cute because they get a reward.”

In any case, they have a whole range of social behavior patterns. It is said that some dogs – especially Dalmatians or Border Collies – are able to laugh. The animal psychologist talks about a Mexican hairless friend’s dog: “He can definitely do that, the more he approaches you in a friendly way,” she says.

Smart dogs can imitate and sync

However, it is unclear whether the behavior that is genetically ingrained somewhere in the dog group is not clear, whether it was learned or used consciously. Or whether it’s more reflexive: like a dog, which yawns automatically when its mistress or master yawns at it. Anyway, one thing is clear: “Smart dogs can also imitate us,” says the animal psychologist. “When we scold someone, many participate and bark.”

Not only external behavior is synchronized by our four-legged friends, but also internal behavior. This is also over a longer period of time. If we have months of stress over a move or a problem with our boss, this can also be reflected in the dog’s cortisol level. Research indicates that this is independent of the dog’s personality or activity level. “It’s an indication that synchronization is actually happening,” Loesche says.

The dog reflects appropriately – sometimes inappropriately

But our inner life is also automatically reflected. For example, when we meet our neighbors whom we do not like. And when the dog growls at him, even though we seem friendly. “We don’t have our basic emotional situation under control,” the expert says. Before we act, our brain has already decided what we are going to do – and the dog is already aware of these milliseconds. “He is already there before us and we cannot deceive him.”

This is why you don’t have to talk at all so the dog can “understand” you or find out what’s going on with me. or what to do. In training, for example, imitation is used using the “do as I do” method. “Dogs can learn to imitate us very well once they understand that this is all. Or that we interact with them in a special way,” says Patricia Loach. You can achieve great training effects with this.

There is only one downside: Dogs are always so obvious that they mimic our inconsistency too. Say, “They mirror us even if we don’t want that to be reflected.”

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220728-99-190071 / 2

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