Many of us find ourselves bending over backwards to please our furry friends. We oblige without noticing the subtle techniques they employ to get their way
The many ways in which dogs are able to manipulate us, even though they do so in the nicest and most amusing manner, reveal how intensely they study us and work out how best to sculpt us into pliable, obliging and idyllic human guardians. It is highly likely that your dog knows you much better than you ever imagined!
There are many reasons for the success of the canine’s skill in manipulating humans, some of which have to do with chemistry. Oxytocin, an attachment hormone, promotes feelings of generosity, intimacy, love and tranquillity, thereby encouraging altruistic behaviour. It has been shown that levels of oxytocin increase in humans, in the same way as in a mother with her baby, when we reciprocally gaze into a dog’s eyes.
Many dogs have overcome their natural tendency to avoid direct eye contact, so enabling themselves to benefit from this chemical bonding pathway. Because oxytocin encourages hugging and cuddling as well as generosity, when we succumb to those doleful eyes and hand over a portion of our dinner or extend or bring forward Bruno’s walk-time, we are probably responding to primal forces.
Operant Conditioning is a term used by behaviourists and trainers to refer to the principal of cause and effect used to modify behaviour. When behaviours are rewarded they are most likely to be repeated, and this is exactly how dogs train us. They seize the moment we are judged to be in a receptive state of mind in order to optimally condition us.