Dog tears: an emotional issue for humans – For dogs? Not that much

Rocky is a dog’s dog. A standard poodle, he has never seen a show ring, he never had the show “poodle cut”. His human, David, selected him from the kennel on the basis that Rocky was moving quickly from a sort of quiet reserve to an interest in apparent friendship. David was informed about some needs of poodles: lots of physical activity, company, “mental” stimulation; Kennel staff suggested that the poodles enjoy advanced training and physical challenges, in keeping with their history as waterfowl retrievers. David is an active guy who goes for a run almost every day, and all of this suited him. He even has a swimming pool, which Rocky loves. Rocky is well behaved in public and the two are almost inseparable. Except David has a job. Overseeing operations in a large data center means you can occasionally work from home, and often means you may be called in for extended hours at short notice, to spend at least part of your time in a “clean room” at a building with strict security. . No, it is not a dog-friendly workplace.

David notices that Rocky sometimes seems to cry when he leaves for work or when he comes home late. He thinks it’s sweet that Rocky misses him, and he gets sad and teary when he can’t be around. Is right?

Tears of grievance? Or bored to tears?

We should probably be careful about associating dog behavior with emotional life and human reactions, even when the correlations seem obvious; even when the relationship seems close and affectionate; even when it’s really hard to look at a dog with teary eyes and not see what we know as sadness. Some people will never see anything else.

However, what we know about canine psychology suggests otherwise. Tearing is one of many stress reactions. Just as we humans can cry when dust or other irritants get into our eyes, so will dogs. However, you won’t often see tears fall from a dog’s eyes. In humans, normal tearing that occurs as part of ocular lubrication drains through the tear ducts into the nasal cavity, where it normally evaporates and is exhaled, or assimilated into nasal mucus. In case of irritation and excessive tearing, tears may spill from the eyes or contribute to sneezing. In cases of deep, sobbing grievance, tears may run down the cheeks as well as down the nose. Dog tears, whatever their cause, tend to collect in a lacrimal pit at the base of the eye socket and then drain through the nasal cavity into the throat to be swallowed. (That tear may well magnify the teary-eyed effect.) Tears usually only appear on the face if the hair gets them dirty there, which can also be a source of eye irritation. David, in a truly anthropomorphic way, associates Rocky’s tears with his own feeling of sadness and guilt for leaving his friend alone, but not with the similar tears David sees when he is late for Rocky’s newspaper clipping schedule. .

Now of course the stress of parting is different from the stress of being pushed around by uncut hair. It has its own name: separation anxiety. And some would argue that not calling that sadness is a distinction without a difference.

Let’s go ahead and do a somewhat anthropomorphic dive into Rocky’s “mood” when he cries. David sees: “Oh David, I’m going to miss you a lot, I love you and I want to be with you and I hate when you’re not.” Research suggests that the script in Rocky’s brain is more likely: “Poop! There it goes. Who’s going to feed me? Am I going to run out today? He’s hiding my toys again. I’m going to be bored all day.”

“Uh-oh, I’m so sorry” or “See you later, buddy”?

The difference is really in the most comforting and comforting way for David to respond to Rocky’s stress. As usual, although we are generalizing here, dogs definitely have distinct personalities, as well as breed and species traits, and not all dogs will respond in the same way to similar stimuli.

If David is fixated on sadness, he could be making a fuss over Rocky for both his unscheduled departure and guilt-ridden return: making sad faces (an unconscious mimicry we humans do that actually turns on our empathy circuits), speaking with a sad voice. trying to calm Rocky down and giving him treats. Well-intentioned, but all of these gestures can simply signal to a stressed dog, “Hey, you’re right, I’m messing with our routine and now I’m acting weird,” and thus add to the stress.

David’s first priority should probably be making sure Rocky’s routine is as normal as possible: that food is provided, that toys and treats are as readily available as ever, and that additional human help arrives (and as needed) as needed. familiar) for walking and exercise. rock needs. His second priority should be to handle these details with as much pre-planning and as little fuss as possible, not making too much of an unexpected departure and being attentive to Rocky’s behavior upon his return, but moving both of them in the usual way. . routine as fast as possible.

Remembering that dogs aren’t people, by literally shrugging off his departure, by taking Rocky’s routine into account and sticking to it as much as possible, those tears can be a thing of the past almost overnight.

Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *