You’re walking down the street one day when you notice that your neighbor’s pet is sitting next to his front door, staring at you intently. You can’t help but wonder what he wants. A few seconds later, your curiosity pays off as the dog jumps up onto all four feet and begins to frantically bark and drool. He runs over to you, tail wagging furiously, then sits back down to stare again. It seems this canine friend has no problem making an impression or letting you know how much he likes you.
Dogs are social creatures, and they often use body language to communicate their feelings about people, places and things. Whether it’s greeting another animal by raising their tails high while sniffing each other, or running toward someone who feeds them treats, dogs have been known to show affection through their actions.
Even if we humans aren’t always sure exactly what our pets want from us, most of us understand that there’s a difference between being ignored and being loved. And, since dogs don’t talk, their bodies speak volumes.
However, just because dogs are good at reading our expressions doesn’t mean they understand everything we say. For example, some experts believe that dogs interpret human speech based on their own experiences, which means that your pooch may stand up on their hind legs and start barking whenever you open the fridge door. That could be frustrating if you never feed them treats, however, and even more confusing if they’ve had plenty of water recently.
One thing is clear: Dogs love getting treats from humans. They’ll paw at the ground, roll around in the dirt or jump into the air to catch any scraps that fall out of your hands during your daily morning walk. Your kids may think this behavior strange, but these dogs are doing nothing more than expressing their excitement. Some researchers argue that dogs enjoy eating human foods more than they like feeding themselves with regular dry kibbles made of grains and vegetables.
Pushing the Envelope with Treats
Some scientists claim that dogs’ enthusiasm for human foods comes from their evolutionary history. Before domestication, wolves were the only animals that ate raw meat. When early man began hunting wild game, he also started bringing home dead prey for his family to eat. In order to survive, these dogs learned to associate certain behaviors with receiving tasty rewards.
If a wolf came upon a carcass and attacked it before it was fully gone, it might learn to avoid such a meal in future hunts. Over time, those who demonstrated aggressive tendencies were eliminated from the pack, leaving those who took their share of the spoils alone. As man turned to farming to provide sustenance for growing populations, he continued to bring home fresh kills. Dogs would eventually find themselves sharing meals with humans, whether they liked it or not.
The idea that dogs like to play with humans may come from the fact that many breeds were originally bred to work alongside humans. The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and border collies have long been used to herd sheep, guide boats and pull sleds.
These jobs require that the dogs remain close to their owners, which allows them to develop strong bonds with their masters. On top of that, they spend hours working and playing together. Owners who take care of their pets regularly will likely spend more time interacting with them than those who prefer to let their dogs run free.
As for the whole standing-on-their-hind-legs business, it’s true that dogs will sometimes exhibit extreme joy when presented with new toys or objects. This type of reaction isn’t limited to humans, either. Other animals, including cats and horses, are known to react similarly after coming across something new. However, this excitement usually lasts less than a minute and subsides once the object leaves sight.
By contrast, dogs seem to experience prolonged bouts of excitement when they encounter new items that resemble food. Why is this? One theory suggests that dogs feel that human foods contain higher levels of nutrients and energy than they normally receive. Another study suggests that dogs view humans as potential sources of nutrition, especially when they’re hungry. Whatever the reason, it’s evident that dogs respond to human foods in ways that aren’t typical among pets.
Although some veterinarians advise against giving treats to dogs on a consistent basis, others disagree with this rule. According to Dr. Michael Stonebraker, a veterinarian with the Animal Medical Center in New York City, it’s entirely acceptable to give your pet small amounts of food occasionally. Of course, it’s important to note that if your pup develops health problems following increased consumption, it may be necessary to consult with a professional.
Do dogs really salivate at the thought of food? Yes. Although it sounds silly, dogs do actually secrete saliva when thinking about food. This happens when they smell something tasty approaching. Their saliva glands release a chemical called acetylcholine, which causes muscles throughout their mouths to contract. This makes their jaws clench tighter, preparing them for the act of chewing.