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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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    London is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Pet Dog Trainer who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in the domestic dog.

« People Can Signal Playfulness to Dogs | Main | Training Homework: How to Get It Done »

January 31, 2010


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Having been in a situation similar to yours, I have to agree that the second explanation just makes more sense. When I was a teenager, I had a golden retriever who adored me. I was a paper girl at the time and used to take my dog with me every day. My mother thought my dog was slowing me down too much and asked me to start leaving her at home.

A week or so later, I was walking on my route by myself, not really paying much attention to my surroundings when I was surprised by one of my customer's dogs charging out of their garage straight towards me. My customers had rescued this dog from an abusive situation and she could be rather unpredictable.

I tried calming her down and backing away but she kept running and never slowed. Suddenly a large blur of golden fur knocked into the side of the charging dog and the next thing I knew, my never-aggressive-to-anything Abigail had the angry dog pinned on her back. She stood over the dog, growling at her until the owners came running out to collect their dog and make sure I was unharmed.

That was the first and only time my golden ever so much as growled. She clearly could not have been conditioned to act in such an aggressive manner. She simply saw that her person was in danger and jumped into the fray to defend me. The only reason I can think of for her behavior is the love between us.

I had no idea she'd even been anywhere in the area but after talking with several customers about it I found out that ever since I'd started leaving my dog at home, she'd been sneaking along behind me on the route to simply be with me and thank God she did!


I used to be a believer in the "traditional" way of thinking and I would have scoffed at a story like this, saying ooh the owners is just anthropomorphizing the dogs.

but I think your explanation is not just preferable because it sounds nicer, but because it rings true. I'm not sure it "proves" love, but I don't get the premise that we must "prove" that animals can feel love/affection, etc, in the first place. I mean, why do we automatically start from the stance that they surely do not love? Love in all its forms is what keeps marriages together, keeps groups loyal to each other, etc. ....Gosh, it's not like we know of any animals who work in groups or form long-lasting bonds.. *cough, cough*

Anyway, that's a rant for another day. I think you make another very good point. The dog in front, is not necessarily the leader. I've recently heard some study say that the theory that when you let your dog out of the house in front of you, you are giving him some sort of power or dominance over you.
complete BS!

Consider a pack of wolves. I bet that the leader does not always leave the cave ahead of everyone else. In fact, I bet that the dynamics in a pack of wolves is far more complex than we humans, thinking in a sort of military chain-of-command mindset, had previously thought. In an evolutionary context, it makes sense that each wolves particular abilities are allowed to shine through, and that the pack is not a strict, straight-down-hierarchy, but more like.. well, a group, a team..sure, there is some hierarchy, but it is more flexible and allows the individual best at, say, tracking, to do the tracking, and the one best at scouting to go up ahead of everyone else, and so forth.


I too prefer the second explanation. It was a smart move for Raja to protect his buddy and took the risk just like how humans would protect a friend. About the man..I guess he was embarrassed that his dog attacked yours that's why he acted that way.


I would prefer the second explanation. It is truly a clear display of affection and courage to save a friend in need.

  Randall Johnson

Anyone who would seriously try to explain Raja's response in terms of stimulus-and-response conditioning could just as easily be accused of having been conditioned by his/her educational conditioning, i.e., scientific training. As explanations go, it's totally bankrupt. Besides, dogs have shown time and time again that they can size up and respond, appropriately and intentionally, to a wide range of situations.

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