The Emotional Lives of Dogs

Written by guest speaker Robert Holmes, Animal Behaviour Clinics

It is reasonable to accept that dogs have the same basic emotions as people. Observations of their emotionally driven responses suggest that many dogs are experiencing negative emotional states when confined to backyards for prolonged periods. These consequences are detrimental to their welfare. However, human management and activities can have beneficial emotional effects.

Consideration of Panksepp’s 7 systems suggests that SEEKING, CARE and PLAY can readily be utilised by carers to increase the welfare of dogs confined to backyards. RAGE, FEAR and PANIC require carer awareness and action in order to reduce the chances of activation. In Australia LUST is often rendered surgically irrelevant, and has other welfare consequences if consummated.

It would be valuable to know whether the positive emotional states can compensate for the negative in order to produce “a life worth living”, and to extend animal welfare assessment.

If we wish dogs of differing temperaments to have, on balance, positive welfare states in confinement we need to know more about the expression, variables affecting, frequency of occurrence, interactions and sum of these emotional states.

Meanwhile, it can be argued that the backyard is no place to keep a dog, but it appears to be a good idea to allow them to have voluntary access to a secure outside enclosure from within the house.

If you would like to consult with Robert Holmes, please don’t hesitate to call our staff members for his contact details.