Free The Cognitive Behavior of a Dog Essay Sample

Study of animal behavior involves conducting research on activities carried out by living organisms. It entails examining the relationship between organisms and their physical environment. The study of animal's immediate surrounding includes aspects like probing how they manage resources and how they trick marauders. In addition, it involves investigating how they choose mating partners as well as how they reproduce and care for their young ones. Animal behaviorists are concern with origin, purpose, growth and evolution of animal behavior. For animals to survive, they must be capable of detecting discrepancies in the environment and learn how to live in such a situation. This essay discusses the cognition behavior in domestic dogs, scientifically known as Canis lupus familiaris. According to Dukas (2004), the term 'cognition' is generally defined as ways through which living things sustain, process and react to environmental changes.  Further, cognition includes processes like perception, memory, learning and capability to resolve problems. These skills aid animals in depicting verdicts that enable them to survive in both social and physical surroundings. Social cognition as a subset of cognition in Canis lupus familiaris deals with social issues such as collaboration in meal search, cooperation and competition during play as well as identification and antagonism with opponents. In addition, it entails the growth and upkeep of collective relationships, dishonesty in meal storage and studying opponent's strengths and weaknesses as wells as individual recognition. To achieve the set objective, this essay discuses the cognitive behavior among dogs according to the four questions postulated by Tinbergen. Further, it is hypothesized that dog's cognitive behavior owes its origin from interaction with man and that it aids dog's survival. Furthermore, it is supposed that the behavior has evolved over time and dogs express it as a result of man's actions.

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The development of Cognitive Behavior in Canis lupus familiaris

Study of development of animal behavior involves probing conduct variation during the life time of an animal and investigating how behaviors are impacted on by genetic factors (genes) and experience.  Genetic factors play a major role in dog's traits. However, the environment in which a dog is reared determines its behavior to a large extent. When a young dog arrives in a human dwelling, it entirely depends on the owner for survival. Man has to provide it with things like meals, shelter and even security. Virtually, all activities of a domestic dog are controlled by human beings throughout its existence. This resembles the treatment given to children. The similarities on cognition to human social skills exhibited by kids and dogs can therefore be attributed to this treatment and interaction. However, this is debatable. The brain of human beings is highly advanced compared to that of dogs. In addition, the young ones of human beings become independent at some grow stage while the dogs depend on people in their entire life to get things like food, touch and access to mating partners. For peaceful existence and provision of these requirements, the dog has to learn how to survive in human environment without trouble.

More so, traits related to support and reliance are taught by man from the early stages of a dog's life. A young dog that stays near the owner is more likely to get food than the one which goes out to look for its own meal. Likewise, a dog that barks when it has a call gets fair treatment unlike the one that does not. Further, a clever dog is given the chance to mark its boundaries. Through these acts, cognition to social stimuli may develop quickly. Furthermore, some dogs are actually trained on these skills.   

Therefore, it can be said that dogs develop human social skills since they grow up in human dwelling and learn from them. This can be supported by the fact that apes reared by human beings exhibit special cognitive skills courtesy of social learning. Additionally, there is a supposition that dog's ability to acquire social skills is directly related to frequency and duration of interaction with people. However, Hare and Tomasello (2005) disputed the argument and said that even puppies' experiencing minimal human interaction possesses such skills. They base their argument on the study conducted by Hare involving puppies attended by humans and those which were never cared for. According to these authors, quoting Hare et al. (2002), both sets of puppies exhibited the same reaction to pointing and other social cues. Due to these findings, it was argued that more attention should be paid to the possibility of convergent evolution.

Evolution of Cognitive Behavior in Canis lupus familiaris

Study on evolution of animal behaviors deals with examining the origin of behavior patterns and how they vary from generation to generation. The dog is believed to have evolved some thirty five million years ago. According to DNA analysis of wolves found in India, the domestic dog is believed to have existed fifteen thousand years ago  Human beings came to existence thirty-five million years later and domesticated the dog. Further, it is argued that dogs became distinct from wolves more than ten thousand years ago and since then, dog has evolved on four separate occasions. This elaborates on the difference in their genetic make up. In addition, there is a modern supposition that dogs evolved hand in hand with man. However, human beings lost sense of smell and depended more on dog.

As literature indicates, the dog was the first animal to be domesticated by man. Nowadays, dog is found everywhere people are. Over a period of time, dogs have evolved tricks of learning man's social skills as well as communicative attributes. The traits learned by dogs are more flexible and human like in nature more than those shown by man's close relatives such as the chimpanzee and baboons.

Genetically, the dog is not closely related to humans. However, they show similarities in some of cognitive behaviors and this indicates a possibility of convergent evolution.  That is, dogs and humans may have developed same social traits differently. The theory of convergent evolution says that, "if two distantly related species share a similar trait; it is possible that these similar traits arose independently via a similar evolutionary process". Hare and Tomasello say that comparative enquires, between primates and carnivores, have authenticated that similar cognitive behavior in dogs and humans are as a result of convergent evolution. Further, they argue that these social skills have a heritable constituent which at first arose "during domestication as a result of selection on systems mediating fear and aggression towards humans".

On the hand, the phylogeny of domestic dog has not entirely taken the process of natural selection. Rather, humans have genetically engineered some traits so that dogs fit well in society. This might have led to emergence of cognitive behavior shown by the dogs as well.

Causes of Cognition Behavior in Canis lupus familiaris

Animal behavior may be attributed to external stimuli, hormones and neural mechanisms. The dog of the modern world is capable of listening and reacting to gestures and cues given by people (especially those close to it). Skinner (1953) says that behavior of people can be a crucial source of social stimuli. He continues to inform that this type of stimuli began as behaviors that directly influenced how other individuals act either during antagonism or collaboration. It is argued that the stop signal used by law enforcers is as a result of man's act of holding others on the chest so that they can stop. The rest learned the trade and the behavior became entrenched. There are other behaviors which result from social stimuli and they include acts like "pointing, nodding, reaching towards something, or glancing between an object and another individual". Skinner (1986) paid attention on how such gestures would come to be social stimuli; however, the primary ideologies are applicable to dogs as well.

This is exemplified by the fact that when a person tosses a dog's ball in the game of fetch, the tossing motion or outstretching of the hand acts as discriminative motivation to follow the ball in the bearing of throw. The response given by the dog binds into the supportive activity of following the dice or catching a victim "along with social reinforcers received from retrieving the object" . The act of following the bearing of throw can be simplified to a less dynamic form of motivation. The dog can then start to recognize gestures like throwing or pointing. According to Hare et al (2005), social stimuli can be entrenched into various animals with time. However, dogs exhibit more sensitivity to human sources of stimuli than other non-human creatures.         

Udell and Wynne (2007) say that object choice paradigm is used to test reaction to gestures by dogs. According to the test, a reinforcing item is concealed in a certain site or container. The dog is then taken to the test arena and an individual gives a clue towards the site where the item is hidden. In addition, other hiding sites are made similar to the site where the object of interest is. The subject (dog) is let to move towards the hiding sites and show its selection through touching and also by observing its proximity to the location of interest.     

Functions of Cognitive Behavior in Canis lupus familiaris

The function of animal behavior includes instant effects on a living thing and providing it with adaptation to survive in an environment.  The cognitive behavior has enabled Canis lupus familiaris to survive in modern environment and ensure continuity of its generation. A cognitive skill like the ability to locate a site where the food is hidden has enabled the dog to find food- for it self and the puppies. In addition, the ability to follow the direction where something has been thrown has enabled the dog to sense and capture the prey. Further, a dog that has learned where to put stool enjoys much favor from humans. As a result, the dog secures its safety and that of young ones as well as food. More so, a dog that acquires training skills is capable of protecting its territory from enemies and guarantee well being of the young ones. In protecting young ones from predators, dogs use fighting skills like jumping and other traits of human nature.   Moreover, dogs that learn to read the reaction (mood) of owners are able to ensure their security. That is, when the owner is angered, the dog may ran away to avoid being hit. On the other hand, a dog may know when the owner is happy and go for a kiss. The kiss may signify that the dog is hungry and therefore it can secure food. The trait also helps the dog to groom the young ones.   

Finally, cognitive behavior helps dogs to determine the environment that has less competition and minimal number of predators. As such dogs prefer a surrounding that optimizes their chances of survival. This is illustrated by studies conducted by Ward (2007) which determined that dogs are capable of selecting large amounts of food and leave smaller amounts. The process of natural selection will always favor animals which make good decisions.

Dog's cognitive behavior can be attributed to convergent evolution due to its co-existence with man. Since its domestication over 10, 000 years ago, it has become man's best friend- sharing the same pleasures and difficulties. Due to similar environmental factors, both organisms have evolved similar attributes to survive. In addition, man has scientifically induced some genes to alter dog's character. This may lead to cognitive skills as well.  The cognitive behavior may develop during the early stages of dog's life and continue to later stages of development. This is a result of instructions and training it receives from man. Certain acts like throwing a ball and outstretching movement of the hand may act as social stimuli to cause the behavior. As such, this attribute has ensured dog's survival in the environment. Through cognitive behavior, the dog can locate food, provide security for puppies and secure fair treatment by human beings.


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