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  • Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.
    Slobodchikoff is President and CEO of Animal Communications, Ltd., specializing in pet behavior problems and in educating people about the behavior of animals.

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January 29, 2009


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Jim Stephens

isn't the dog reacting to the stimulus of owner + shredded paper resulting in angry owner (dog reading the body langauage of owner) and therefore dog exhibits appeasing gesture of lack of eye contact low body posture etc.
in other scenarios the appeasing gesture is not required (dog + paper with no owner; dog + owner with no paper).the fact that the dog remembers these episodes after months shows the strength of the conditioning / appeasement to placate irate owner.
the playing dogs inhibit bite to maintain the play , after all it would not be play if one party was injured, nor would the injured party wish to play again! this bite inhibition does not require a sense of justice to intertepret .

Randall Johnson

Like most dog caretakers, I believe dogs have a fairly well developed sense of right and wrong. I base this belief on more than four decades of experience with family dogs covering a variety of breeds, including pedigrees and street dogs, and I don’t consider myself to be careless observer. Besides, it makes sense. After all, social animals need to learn the rules of group living and that includes knowing which behaviors are allowed and which are not. But, of course, it goes beyond that as we get into the realm of emotions (compassion, empathy, remorse, jealousy, etc.) and sentience, and there are still some folks who regard such considerations as anthropomorphic fantasies. However, during a recent Internet search, I came across a site that made reference to Dr. James Kirkwood, chief executive and scientific director of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UK), who reminds us that "We can't prove absolutely even that another human being is sentient, though it would obviously be unreasonable to assume they are not. But the weight of scientific opinion is that it's certainly right to give the benefit of the doubt to all vertebrates." ( I was captivated by the simple elegance of this statement and wanted to share it with other DBB readers.
As for those who want to take the leap into debates about animal morality, we first need a good working definition of ‘morality’. Meanwhile, I personally like the term ‘wild justice’, borrowed from the title of Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s forthcoming book. It brings a note of authenticity to discussions of fairness, empathy, and compassion in non-human animals.

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