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The material on this page is a small excerpt from:
How To Trim Your Dog's...Nails! And Why You're Probably Dumber Than Your Dog, by David A. Grass. It may be used only with permission.

Canine Perceptions

[For much more on this topic, see the book listed above.]

There is so often a disconnect between dog and human when it comes to the person perceiving and understanding what is going on with their dog. The fact is, dogs are very perceptive and tend to know us far better than we know them—much more than we give them credit for or are even aware of. And what they know affects them on a regular basis, and in a big way.

For instance, when we are fearful our fear can make them more afraid. Fear or anxiety perceived by a dog from a person, especially its caretaker, is nearly guaranteed to instill those same emotions—or at least heightened concern—in the animal. Some people emanate plenty of anxiety when it comes to, for instance, trimming their pet’s nails. Our state of mind and emotions, not just our actions, are likely to either escalate or help diffuse stressful situations experienced by our pets.

We teach our pets things we do not know we are teaching them. Of course there are exceptions, but canine fears, insecurities, and prejudices more often than not come from the people who care for them, just as children are similarly burdened by their parents’ negative or counterproductive attitudes and behaviors. In other words, you can often tell a lot about a person by their dog...

Dogs can smell better than us, hear better than us, and generally perceive body language better than us. Yet most people are surprisingly oblivious to these canine abilities, or at least greatly underestimate them and their significance.

Making it even more difficult to fool dogs is the fact that they are able to smell chemical signals that emanate from the pores of our skin as our bodies react to our emotions. Thus, their noses are capable of informing them how we feel or what our intentions might be. This is accomplished by utilizing pheromones, which are naturally occurring odors produced by all insects and animals (including humans). When pheromones are secreted, they communicate various types of information to, and dictate behavior of, others of the same species. Animals from amoeba to mammals use pheromones for important matters such as mating, marking territory, and identifying friends from potential foes. Their extensive use by ants is why these insects have successful social structures that have allowed them to thrive for millions of years.

While one species is generally not influenced by the pheromones of another species (although some plants attract certain insects by producing fake pheromones that resemble those belonging to the insects), there seems to be an exception to the rule in regard to humans. When we produce pheromones, animals such as dogs and cats are able to detect and interpret them—something we humans are apparently unable to do ourselves (but our distant ancestors may have been able to)...

© Copyright, David A. Grass,
How To Trim Your Dog's...Nails! And Why You're Probably Dumber Than Your Dog, 2003. All rights reserved.

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