Canine loyalty and self sacrifice for their owners

Recently, there have been at least two reports (May, 2012) of dogs saving their owners and putting themselves in harm’s way. One was a report of a dog pulling its owner away from the train tracks before being hit by the speeding train. Another report was that of a dog saving its owner from a snake attack by placing itself between the snake and the owner and was bitten on the shoulders and on the lip by the snake. The debate as to whether dogs harbor love towards their owners by their loyalty and do dogs really understand self sacrifice, or whether a dog’s loyalty and dedication is emotionless self preservation has been reignited.

There is a belief that “dogs are totally dependent on their human owners for survival” and therefore they seemingly act in a loyal and dedicated way for purely self preservation and survival.

To me, “dogs are totally dependent on their human owners for survival” and that dogs act in a loyal and dedicated way without emotion and purely out of self preservation and survival are wrong conclusions. Dogs and cats are not “totally dependent on their human owners for survival.” A lost dog can wonder for years and years and still return to its owner. Cats that escape from their owner’s home become roaming feral cats. The large population of feral cats in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is from such runaway cats. Someone once wanted to give my daughter her family cat but when I tried to take the cat, it hissed and scratched and fought and finally ran away. Dogs do not seem to do this. Dogs seem to accept a transfer of owners without resistance. And some point this out as a reason why a dog has no loyalty, dedication nor love towards a particular owner.

Instead, I believe, a dog’s loyalty, dedication, and even the expression of love towards its owner is genuine loyalty, dedication and love. This sense of loyalty, dedication and love is bred in and is developed through generations of domestication and successive breeding. It is a trait bred into the successive generations of dogs and is perpetuated generation after generation by the successive breeding of already domesticated dogs. In breeding horses, cats and dogs, certain bred in traits are perpetuated generation after generation until each new generation of offspring is born with the previiously inbred traits. So the question becomes: Can loyalty, dedication, or love be inbred into dogs as a trait? Are the sense of loyalty, dedication, and love inbred in domesticated dogs as a trait? I believe they can and they are. The possibility of inbreeding an emotional trait of loyalty, dedication and love in dogs can be explained in a way by the concept of inbred affinity.

Affinity in biology is the phylogenetic relationship resulting in a resemblance in general plan or structure [The Random House College Dictionary]. Phylogeny and phylogenesis are defined as the development or evolution of a type or kind of animal or plant. [Ibid.]

These definitions for affinity are limited to biological and physiological evolution and development. So the question now becomes this: Can psychological traits like non-primitive emotions and their expressions like eye contact between humans and pets, in other words, can non-biophysiological traits, i.e., emotional traits, be phylogenetically bred into animals?

In human heredity, biophysiological traits like eye and hair color are inheritable. Propensity for the development of diseases such as “diabetes mellitus, a variable disorder of carbohydrate metabolism caused by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors” [Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary] is also hereditary. Yet this is still within the biophysiological realm of heredity or genetic transmission from generation to generation. In schizophrenia, however, the cause “may include genetic predisposition” and “the disorder clearly has a biologic basis.” [The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Page 476].

This biologic basis of a non-physiological disorder, i.e., a disorder purely of the mind, a purely mental disorder, does seem to provide us with a theoretical basis for the genetic transmission of an intangible disorder. An extension of this theory might indicate the possibility of breeding in certain intangible traits like higher emotions of loyalty, dedication and love and the possibility of a genetic transmission of such intanbigle traits in successive generations through domestication and intensive breeding.

Therefore, it is at least theoretically possible that the psychological disposition and affinity towards humans through inbred emotions of dedication, loyalty and love in domesticated dogs as pets are bred into them through the successive breeding of generations after generations. The dog’s readiness to accept the transfer of owners does not indicate to me a lack of such psychological disposition and affinity. On the contrary, this indicates to me that the inbred physiological disposition and affinity is transferable, just like human emotions of loyalty, dedication and love. And this has nothing to do with physical sex.

L’interazione uomo-animale

Le teorie di Levinson si basavano sugli evidenti benefici che il prendersi cura di un animale apporta ad un soggetto sano o malato che sia: egli osservò che ansia, depressione e stress diminuivano considerevolmente in favore di uno stato psico-fisico decisamente migliore, soprattutto tra i bambini e le persone anziane. Questi sono stimolati ad interagire con l’animale e creare con lui un codice comunicativo per capire il suo comportamento e fargli comprendere il proprio: si favorisce così lo sviluppo del senso di responsabilità, dell’affettività, il superamento di stati emotivi limitanti come la timidezza o l’iperattività e un miglioramento delle capacità verbali dovuto anche ad un maggiore senso di tranquillità che si acquisisce grazie all’animale. Inoltre, è stato dimostrato che il gesto di accarezzare il pelo animale risulta benefico nei casi di cardiopatie e problemi circolatori, stabilizzando la pressione arteriosa e i battiti cardiaci.

New studies about dogs

According to some latest studies, dogs have the capacity to recognize 340 names of objects, and they can retrieve a three dimensional solid object after seeing a two dimensional color picture of the same object.

Dogs and wolves are 99.8% genetically the same. Wolf cubs change to aggressive behavior at 8 weeks old. They do not engage in play, they do not respond to gestural commands, and they do not make eye contact with human keepers. The conclusion is that it is not possible to change a wolf into a dog through attempted domestication alone.

In the domestication of the silver fox, 1% of the silver fox population can be domesticated by successive breeding. By the third generation, radical behavior is reduced. By the 8th generation, aggressive behavior disappears. The mother silver fox does not influence its offspring. Therefore, domestication of the silver fox into dogs depends entirely on genetic breeding. The first 1% of domesticable silver fox, the naturally tamer foxes have less adrenaline. The conclusion is that silver fox with naturally less adrenaline can be genetically bred to become domesticated dogs.

According to researchers, behavioral change in domestication automatically brings on changes in physical appearance. Selectively breeding out aggression is also a process of selectively breeding in a reinforcement of juvenile behavior which is less aggressive. They say that the process is like freezing the adult animal at a juvenile stage of behavior and fixing infantile features. This may partially explain why we are attracted to handsome dogs and cute dogs. But it still does not explain the dog’s loyalty, and its propensity to alarm others about its master’s disstress and imminent epileptic seizure.

As I have explained, dogs do not really understand human words. Dogs recognize single and particular combinations of polysyllabic phonetic groupings. For example, Dogs recognize their names which are often polysyllabic. Thus it may be possible that the dog can associate a physical object with a particular polysyllabic sound group. In the experiment conducted by the researchers, the trainer spoke German to the dog. If we say that the dog responds to a particular polysyllabic sound group in association with a particular object, then that becomes language specific. Would a German dog trained in German to fetch an object by hearing the German word for it do the same if the trainer spoke French to the dog and would the dog go and fetch the same object? If the answer is no, then the dog does not understand French, and the dog does not respond to the French word for the same object. This means that the dog must rely not on the “word” but on previous memory from training. There may also be the possibility that the dog can sense what the trainer is thinking. When the trainer says the German word for a particular object he or she wants the dog to fetch, the dog may sense the mental image the trainer has in mind at the moment the command is given. Since all human thoughts are “packets of energy” that are projected telepathically, the dog may be sensing and responding to the mental image that is being projected rather than the “words” or “names” of the objects.

The counter argument is that if dogs “understand” words and can associate objects with particular sounds, then dogs would be language specific, i.e., a German dog would not understand a French command, unless the dog is bilingual like my friend’s dog that reacts to both English and Japanese, although a bit slower when responding to the Japanese commands.

If we accept that dogs are not language specific, whereas people are language specific, then the plausible explanation for fetching the correct object on verbal command is more of a telepathic “reading” of human thought projections.

One can actually perform an experiment. Get a German dog trained in German to go fetch an object after giving the usual command in German, naming the object in German. Then have a French speaking trainer speak French to the German dog and ask the dog to go fetch the same object after giving the command in French, naming the object in French. Will the dog respond? Now, get the German dog to sit, then give the dog a mental command, a mental verbal command but not vocalized to go fetch an object, all the while thinking in German. Repeat the experiment with the German dog but this time get a French trainer to sit before the German dog and have the French trainer give a mental verbal command without vocalization, naming the object mentally in French. Will the dog respond? Now, try to give a mental image command by thinking of a picture of an object without naming it in any language mentally. If the dog goes and fetches the object you were thinking about in front of the dog, then would that prove telepathic communication?

The dog can recognize objects as solid objects and in pictures. Retrieving an object after seeing it in a picture does not require any more recognition skills than regular hunting skills.

Pesonalities of pets

Recently, scientists seem to have “proven” belatedly what pet owners already know for ages that pets have emotions like jealousy, fear, embarrassment, guilty feeling, submissiveness, etc. and that pets can and do smile. 

Many pet owners also talk about the “personalities” of pets.  They speak with certainty that “each of my pets has his and her own personality”.   Personality is defined as the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual, esp. in relationships with others; the totality of of an individual’s behavioral and emotional tendencies; the organization of the individual’s distinguishing character traits, attitudes or habits. [Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary] 

All of the elements of the above definition are noticeable in animal behavior.  Elephants and monkeys exhibit mourning, a fact recorded and known to animal researchers.   Japanese monkeys learned by observation to wash rice.  Each dolphin has its own personality.  Dog and cat breeders also know that behavioral modifications can be genetically encoded in subsequent generations. 

In a broader sense, canine loyalty is a form of love and dogs show this.  The dog that lay at the foot of the coffin of its soldier-owner at his funeral, and the dog that stayed with his fallen Japanese tsunami victim until help arrived illustrtate this loyalty as love very well.   

Cani e gatti attenzione al diabete

Cani e gatti che non producono abbastanza insulina sono affetti da una malattia chiamata diabete mellito, di cui ne esistono di due forme.  I due tipi di diabete che colpiscono gli animali sono il diabete insulino-dipendente o giovanile e il diabete da obesita` o anzianita`.  La maggior parte dei cani mostra il primo tipo, mentre piu` della meta` dei gatti e` affetta dal secondo.

Tiger in “love triangle” kills mate at Texas zoo

Reuters, El Paso, Texas: A female Malayan tiger killed her mate at a west Texas zoo, authorities said on Friday, September 9, 2011, in a rare attack that came after months of simmering jealousy in a feline love triangle. Three-year-old Seri killed 6-year-old Wzui at about 4 pm on Thursday, September 8, 2011, in an enclosure at El Paso Zoo. Zoo keeper Steve Marshall said: “Tragic incidents such as this are not unheard of but we don’t consider this common.” In June, a “tiger love triangle” began between Seri, Wzui and a 15-year-old female Meli from Fresno Zoo, California, that arrived at the El Paso Zoo in 2001. “The male tiger Wzui likes both females but the two females don’t like each other,” the zoo said in a press release dated June 14, 2011. “The girls are jealous of each other,” Collections supervisor Griselda Martinez said.

This event illustrates several points: (1) How little we humans really know about animals, animal behavior; and (2) How little we humans really understand that tragedy is brought about by human mishandling of a situation. (3) It also illustrates that strong emotions like anger, jealousy, “love” or “sexual desire” may be more spiritual than biophysiological, since we describe gods, angels, and spirits as being angry, jealous, and greedy very often, and that these emotions are more than just a product of the hypothalamus, the cerebral cortex, the orbital-frontal cortex, and the limbic system.

We really do not know much about animal behavior, especially when we humans force another female into the life of a happy couple in confinement. This would never happen in the wild.

We really should understand that many disastrous tragedies are brought about by human mishandling of a situation, and in this case, creating a situation that predictably will bring about conflict. It is ironic that the humans involved who are supposed to be animal experts acknowledge that animals have psyche and emotions which include jealousy, apprehension, anger, likes and dislikes, etc. but choose to ignore and dismiss the social interaction and psychological aspects of animals in confinement. Pet owners know this well. Pets get jealous and act on their jealousy.

Responses to enquiries about pets 

Response to enquiry:  “Can dogs have Senna leaf”

Yes.  Dogs can have Senna leaf.  Senna leaf is a purgative.  It is very effective in causing bowl movement and purging hardened fecal matter when the pelvic muscles are too weak for defecation.   

Responses to enquiry:  “What herbs to clean out kidneys for pets?”

 The Chinese Eucommia, easily obtainable at Asian food markets in the neighborhood, is the herb to clean out the kidneys.  Kidneys are kidneys, whether human or animal, they serve the same function and they have the same troubles.  Eucommia is bitter.  Dogs and cats do not like anything that is pungent, piquant, spicy, sour, or bitter.  They shun lemons, oranges, pepper, mustard, etc.  But dogs and cats do not seem to mind smelly or slightly rotten smelling foods.  For example, cats will eat fish, and dogs will eat room temperature overnight steak.  Perhaps the Eucommia tea can be mixed in and fed to the dog or cat. 

Another is the Senna leaf, also available at the neighborhood Asian food market.  Senna is a very strong purgative to facilitate defecation.  Its tea also tastes bitter.  However, one can try mixing the dry Senna leaf with the dog or cat food and see if the pet will eat it. 

If the dog or the cat is too finicky, make a strong Eucommia or Senna tea and then grab hold of the jaws of the pet and force feed the tea.  A squirt bottle may come in handy. 

Enquiry about dog ESP with owner

As the abbreviation implies, ESP is extrasensory perception.  Three examples come to mind.  One is the faithful dog who stays by its owner when the owner is incapacitated.  The dog senses the condition of the owner.  The other is when a dog detects cancer cells in the owner’s body.  The third is when the dog becomes excited and tries to provide warning when the owner is about to have an epileptic seizure or convulsion.

Enquiry about the question how are cats affected by tone

Cats respond to tones but cats tend to “ignore” tonal commands that are not accompanied by gestures.  Cats are very cognizant of facial expression but are more apprehensive and will still run away even when they “know” you are not a threat.  Sometimes, cats will run away upon hearing a sound even before seeing the person making the sound and find a “safer” position to observe.  In responding this way, cats are less likely to “wait and see” while dogs would wait and see before reacting.


I have found that studying pet behavior has given me a lot of insight into how the brain works at different levels of cognition and cognizance.  Here are some observations.

(1)  We communicate with our dogs and cats by a combination of means including discrete sounds, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, gestures and location.

(2)  The mental capability of the dog and cat is limited to recognizing single and discrete units of sound.  Such discrete units of sound include a bark, a meow and single word commands like “Come!”, “Here!”, “Out!”.

(3)  Dogs and cats do not process sequential sounds, i.e., drum beats, rhythm, melody, music or polysyllabic words.  Dogs and cats do not distinguish between commands in different languages.

(4)  The dog will react to a single monosyllabic command in one language and a polysyllabic command in another language even by a different but equally familiar person in the same way.  The dog’s understanding is based not only on the sound but mainly on the tone of voice and also on facial expression, gesture, and body language.  

(5)  Dogs and cats do not have the mental capacity to process audio stimuli in syntax at the phonetic level in the sense of connecting a series of sound units.  The spoken word is a serial combination of single sounds represented by the letters of the alphabets.  Words are meaningful to humans but not to dogs and cats.  A dog and a cat that react to a monosyllabic command without seeing the owner calling are reacting to the tone of voice, the familiarity of the owner’s voice, and perhaps a sense of distance and location, information gleaned from the voice and the sound heard. 

(6)  A dog or cat reacts to its polysyllabic name by recognition of the tone of voice and the discrete sounds made repeatedly in combination with recognition of facial expression when the owner is calling it to come.  It also learns its name by Pavlov conditioning when the owner calls out the name and places food in the food tray.  If you hold out a bone and call a name, the dog associates that set of discrete sounds (its name) with the reward (bone) and your facial expression indicating “Come and get it.”    

(7)  The inability of dogs and cats to process phonetic syntax may explain why dogs and cats do not recognize music as humans do.

(8)  Dogs and cats learn.  My cat learned to reach up with its left paw to try to turn the door knob in an attempt to go out.  This involves knowledge-based anticipatory behavior in order to realize an expected future event, the opening of the door.  

(9)  How did the cat know to turn the door knob to get out?  That is a future event that requires premeditated action in the present.  They are sequential events.  The cat has learned that in order to go out, a future event, it must first turn the door knob, a present event, that must happen in order that the goal of going out is realized.  The cat essentially knows to perform a current event to achieve a future goal.   This is knowledge-based conditioning by observation, seeing humans turn the door knob to open the door and go out.

(10) So dogs and cats learn by a combination of observation and Pavlov conditioning.  This also may indicate that at least cats can learn goal-oriented new behavior by observation. 

(11)  According to canine experts, dogs and cats have past memory but they do not have future thought.  My cat extended its left paw up to try to turn the door knob in an attempt to go out may not be future thought or forethought but it certainly indicates anticipatory action to cause a future event, the opening of the door, to happen.

(12)  Dogs and cats do have a sense of time which they learn.  The dog at least will promptly wake up its owner every morning at a fixed hour.  Sometimes, the dog will “choose” that fixed time for your “wakeup call” which usually involves the dog jumping on you in bed and licking you to wake you up whether you want to or not.

(13)  Dogs and cats do anticipate future events involving timing.  They will stand or sit in front of their feeding bowl, bark and meow, look at the owner in anticipation of being fed at a fixed meal time. 

(14)  We know that dogs and cats dream.  That means they must be able to remember past events.  This is confirmed by pet experts who say that dogs and cats have past memory but do not have future thoughts. 

(15)  Sometimes dogs and cats will jerk in their sleep.  They are dreaming.  Dreaming is a temporal progression of events.  When humans dream, we are cognizant of the passage of time in our dream.  Time is measured by the progression of events.  In meditation, we want to lose the sense of the passage of time.  There is no sense of the passage of time in mental meditative inactivity.

(16)  Dogs and cats that return home after as long as five years are able to do so because of their keen senses, and their clear memories of smells, sounds, sights, and familiarity of location.  This would indicate memory function and sensory recall.

(17)  Perfume and the smell of tobacco, a song, a particular piece of music, a poem, travel pcitures, jog our memory.  We instantly recall its familiarity.  This would be a relatively close approximation of how dogs and cats remember.

(18)  Human companionship may have been instilled in the psyche of domestic dogs and cats such that it has become a part of their psyche.  In psychiatry, psyche is the mind functioning as the center of thought, feeling, and behavior and consciously or unconsciously adjusting and relating the body to its social and physical environment.

  (19)  Dogs have separation disorders where the dog becomes anxious when the owner is away.  This anxiety is related to the dog’s expectation of the owner’s return.  It also indicates that the dog does have a sense of timing as to the fixed time of return of the owner.  The method of training a dog to not become anxious when the owner goes away for an extended period of time is to repeatedly train the dog to expect the return of the owner so that during the time the owner is away, the dog will “know” when to expect the owner’s return.

(20)  The dog’s companionship disorder does not seem to occur in cats.  However, dogs and cats have been instilled in their psyche to enjoy human companionship.  Dogs become at a loss without it.  My cat would sit on top of my typewriter everytime I sit down in front of it.  The cat would not budge. 

(21)  Gestures, touching, even spanking with the hand are interpreted by the dog as encouragement for it to act and behave as it did previously.  These are reward and approval gestures.

(22)  Ignoring a dog’s glance, not reacting to the dog’s approach indicate to the dog that these are signs of body language of rejection.  The dog understands the body language as saying:  “I am not playing with you now.”  Running away from an approaching dog may indicate to the dog that you want to “play” and that you want it to pursue you. 

(23)  Dogs and cats have ESP, extrasensory perception.  The loyal dog that stands by its stricken owner until help arrives senses the physical condition of the incapacitated owner.  The dog that sniffs out cancer, and the dog that barks in an attempt to secure human help in anticipation of an epileptic seizure can be explained as having “extrasensory” perception.  In the case of foretelling an epileptic seizure, the dog must have a sense of temporal urgency.

(24)  My cat anticipated its fate by meowing furiously as if it was crying and complaining when I was taking it for euthanasia.  Our bedroom clock stopped at 2:20 a.m. and we knew that our pet cat had passed on.  It is well known but yet to be explained why clocks stop at the exact time disaster strikes.

(25)  A lost dog that eventually finds its way back home would rely on a combination of environmental cues and memory.  The dog that returns home and sits in the rubble of its destroyed home has much less cues to rely on since the original scenery, the original sounds, the familiar smells of the neighborhood have all changed.  Yet the dog is able to return home.  The only cue the dog would have been able to rely on would be the familiar smell of the rubble.  The dog’s memory of the original smells must have played a role in guiding the dog’s return to the “proper pile of rubble.”  This is also considered extrasensory perception, i.e., a perceptive capability beyond human sensory perceptive abilities.   However, such extrasensory perception would not be considered mystical.  Dogs wailing when a death in the neighborhood occurs is ESP in the mystical sense.

(26)  Jealousy

Pets exhibit jealousy in many ways.  In humans, jealousy is an almost primal emotion.  We can therefore assume that jealousy is instinctive.  Pets seem to handle jealousy much more creatively than humans.  Distraction, diversion and getting in the way in an attempt to disrupt the owner’s attention towards “the other pet” are ways that pets handle jealousy.  Humans, on the other hand, tend to turn to aggressive behavior, anger and even murder in handling jealousy.  Among pets, apprehension and jealousy seem to be instinctive reactions.   Apprehension of pets may be followed by curiosity or defensive behavior.  In humans, jealousy seems to be antecedent to anger. 

The Japanese population is aging rapidly, and so are their pets.  It is estimated that Japan has about 22,000,000 pet dogs and cats.  One 67-year-old pet owner has a dog that went blind when it was 17 years old, so the pet owner decided to take care of it until the dog dies a natural death.  In Japan, pets can get medical care including X-ray scanning, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and 24-hour emergency medical service.

1 Response to Pets

  1. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

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