A taste for not just food.

We all love the film Marley and Me. It’s pulls at our heart strings and although sad we appreciate that he had an amazing enjoyable life.

For those that have never seen the film (after reading this you certainly should!) it’s about a dog named Marley. Marley is a Labrador who, as a puppy, was sooo cute. This cuteness soon dissipated and Marley became an adorable nightmare. Getting up to  the sort of stuff that we can laugh about because it’s not happening to our house. He soon develops a taste for almost everything, from the rubbish bins to the sofa. 

Now, when I say it’s funny because it is not happening to you, that for me has now changed. My beloved rescue dog Max has decided to follow in Marleys footsteps. I should never have let him watch it! Saying that, he hasn’t developed a taste for my furniture as of yet. 

He has had a good go at some of the plasterboard walls, the wooden floor in the kitchen (which now has a fashionable hole), black bin bags that has just been filled with old filler powder and cardboard. That created an eventful mess and powdered footprints all over the sofa, the lounge and up the stairs.

Now back to the film. Despite all the damage that Marley caused, and the close shaves, the family support and persevered with Marley. It also showed; Marley was one of the happiest dogs you would have ever seen. Family was everything to Marley. And it is the morale of the story really. My 8 year old boy watched the film with me and got really upset at the sad scene towards the backend of the film. And let’s face it we all did. All have shed a tear for Marley, whether internal or external.

I said to my boy that despite the fact that Marley had just passed away and it is sad, that he has to look past that and see the life that he had. It’s a celebration of Marleys life, that ultimately culminated in his passing. He was loved, cared for and became an integral part of their family. As all dogs around the world crave.

No matter what Max does, I never appreciate him less. He pushes my patience at times, but this is part of the joyous experience.

With all the blog posts I have sent out into the world so far, it is evident that I champion the correct behaviour in dog ownership. That these posts are designed to help you appreciate what it means to be a dog owner. 

The responsibilities. The joys. The ups and the downs. Ultimately providing your pooch with a fulfilled life.

Let’s be honest, they don’t want an awful lot. Food. Love. Toys.

Feedback is always welcomed, as I’m still getting to grips with blog writing and the correct way to word things 🙂 bark on world!!


The not so guilty look

All dog owners can share that one moment, the time you walk through the door and your pooch has got hold of something he shouldn’t have. A good pair of shoes. Rolls of toilet paper. Or an unfortunate mistake.

As a result of this we have all seen the look that we took as ‘yes I’m guilty, but so sorry’. Head down, eyes up. Yeah you know it as well.

Well, after all this time, it turns out that we have been interpreting these signs all wrong. It is not a sign of guilt, or being sorry. According to Alexandra Horowitz, this is actually a sign of fear or being scared. It’s more of a reaction to your body language than them being guilty of their actions.

The theory by Horowitz states that it is very unlikely that dogs can actually show or more importantly understand the complex emotion of guilt. My interpretation of that would be that a dog does not necessarily understand the difference between what’s good and bad in our world. Their training by humans is based on reptition and reward. This is not incorporating emotions such as guilt.

They can show emotions such a happiness, because that is a natural instinct with all species, and not something they have to be trained.

You can find the Link to Alexandra Horowitz’s work here https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Dog-What-Dogs-Smell-ebook/dp/B002NT3B52/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1487263265&sr=8-3&keywords=alexandra+horowitz .

This has certainly changed how I react to the stuff Max does. I no longer punish him for things done retrospectively. He does not understand what I’m trying to ‘tell him off for’ nor does he understand that what he’s done is wrong. I maintain a calm posture and no anger/disappointment in my voice. He doesn’t need it and will only stress him out with no positive outcomes.

This doesn’t mean he never gets corrective training for things I do not want him to do. For example if I was to be in his presence when he went for a pee in the house, I would incorporate positive training to encourage him to go outside to conduct his business.

Positive training is the only way to get results.

It’s understandable though, and we have all misinterpreted this ‘guilty look’. We would have also continued to do so without Horowitz’s report. When you look at what has been said in the report it does strike a chord and make you think ‘now I get it’. 

The reason we misinterpret this as a guilty look is probably because we associate it to a human emotion and expression. The only way for us ‘normal’ unscientific dog owners to decipher what our dog is thinking is by having a reference point. The only thing we have to reference emotions with is ourselves. What we assume we’d look like if we was a guilty dog. A happy dog. A sad dog. It’s quite normal for us to get this wrong, because it’s not a simple thing to figure out.

What we do know from this though is that our dog is a lot more complex than we give them credit for. They can’t show guilt about what we consider negative actions, but I still believe that in a natural setting they would understand guilt in the presence of their mother, or hurting a sibling. 

It can be flipped on its head. Put yourself in your dogs shoes. You have what we consider a guilty look on your face. Do you think you would be able to decode that as guilt? Or just prick your ears up and turn your head to the side?

It has for one opened our eyes, and hopefully more people will be mindful of how their dog is actually reacting to a situation. Thus improving relationships and a happy balanced pooch.

Let us know your thoughts. Do you believe that dogs can show guilt?

Thank you for reading and bark on people.