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« Another Difference Between Wolves And Dogs | Main | Dog Behavior Conference »

June 16, 2008


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Randall Johnson

This incident joins a long list of other reported observations that clearly show that dogs are capable of feelings we associate with empathy and sympathy and that they extend these feelings toward other species. If we had only a handful of stories like this one, then we could say this is anecdotal evidence, but when there are hundreds of stories reporting similar behavior, we no longer have anecdotal evidence, but rather a solid body of observational evidence. Since the human environment is the dog’s natural habitat, then these reports can also be considered as field observations, which is a respected source of data-gathering. I don’t know if anyone has decided how many anecdotes it takes to cross over to the realm of observational field data, but if this hasn’t been done yet, it’s high time some kind of marker was devised. And, in defense of anecdotal evidence, Hungarian ethologist Vilmos Csányi of the Eötvös Loránd University, who has devoted more than a decade to investigating dogs’ cognitive abilities, has used anecdotes on many occasions to inspire more formal experimental investigations.

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