I read an article this morning that theorized that dogs have a nuanced moral system which includes complex morals and ethics observable through behaviors. (duh!) A few quotes....
RESEARCHER Marc Bekoff says there's a long list of observable emotional and ethical behavior of dogs. It will seem familiar to most people who have dogs:
- Dogs have a sense of fair play. They dislike cheaters. They experience joy in play. They delight in friends. Big dogs handicap themselves in games with little dogs.
- Dogs get jealous when a rival gets more or better treats or treatment. They are resentful, unnerved or saddened by unfair behavior. They are made anxious by suspense. They get afraid.
- They are embarrassed when they mess up or do something clumsy. They feel remorse or regret when they do something wrong. They seek justice. They remember the bad things done to them, but sometimes choose to forgive.
- Dogs have affection and compassion for their animal and human friends and family. They defend loved ones. They grieve their losses. They have hope.
Bekoff, co-author of "Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals," spent thousands of hours observing coyotes, wolves and dogs. He analyzed videotapes frame by frame. The work convinced him these animals possess empathy and compassion, the emotions upon which moral sense is built.
Dogs apparently laugh. The same brain structures show the same activity in laughing humans and in dogs that are enjoying themselves. A dog's laugh is a rhythmic pant.
Play is necessary for healthy brain development in animals and is seen in many mammalian, and some avian, species, Bekoff said. Play hones cognitive skills and later helps in hunting and mating. And play would not be possible without cooperation and trust.
"Virtue is its own reward," Bekoff said. "Fairer is fitter."
To prevent any misunderstanding, a dog will signal to another dog that the imminent jostling, nipping and chasing are "just play" rather than aggression, he said. The game is initiated with the "play bow." A dog, wolf or coyote will crouch on its forelimbs while keeping its rear upright. Any hard-biting cheats find themselves excluded from games.
"Dogs are thinking animals," Bekoff said. "They seek the outcomes they want. They avoid the ones they don't. They solve problems. They have expectations. They have hopes."
Wow.... dogs have morals. As I read this article I could not help but contast some of our news figures of the day... (the Nancy Pelosis, the Rush Limbaughs, the Micheal Savages, the Ann Coulters) with some famous blogging dogs (the Doras, The Stellas, The Scouts, The Brute Squads)...
I'd rather hang out with the dogs, any day.
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