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Marc Bekoff in Rome

Notes without personal thoughts: Different individuals should be treated differently – if they are different. Not based on species but based on personality. Evolution of canine social behavior Comparasion Wolves/dogs Dominance Healthy relationship between us and dogs Some of them separately, but by the end of tomorrow, he will have covered all of the topics. […]

Notes without personal thoughts:

20140423-150741.jpgDifferent individuals should be treated differently – if they are different. Not based on species but based on personality.

Evolution of canine social behavior

Comparasion Wolves/dogs


Healthy relationship between us and dogs

Some of them separately, but by the end of tomorrow, he will have covered all of the topics.

Understand who they are, not what they are.

Animals are alive and sentient beings. They are not objects like a microphone.

The dog who is happy. Not the dog that is happy. Never mind writing rules.

When we number animals they become objects, when we name them they become subjects.

A friend of his named their dog a number, as opposed to a name, just to have this discussion.

Boulder Colorado and some other cities can call dogs “companions” as opposed to “pets”. Humans are called “guardians” not “owners” – we don’t own other animals.

We don’t own objects, even though some people treat their dogs and other animals as just that.

Dogs are individuals. He hates when people talk about “the dog”, it’s like talking about “the human”. It can get very complex very fast.

There are a few guidelines:

–    Always respect the dog, even when he or she isn’t doing what you want
–    Reciprocal teaching
–    It’s not “one size fits all” Every dog is different, and your life is different with every dog.

It’s important to be very clear on where you stand. Ethically.

Thanks to the human/dog relationship dogs has an expectation of how to be treated. If we don’t treat them with respect it’s not strange that they don’t do what we want them to do.

We are obligated to do everything we can to give them the best life possible.

The Emotional lives of animals

  • What do the animal feel about what’s happening to them?
  • What is it like to be a dog? What does it feel to be a dog?
  • What is their point of view?
  • Why do we continue to wantonly slaughter and silence sentinence?
  • Why do we do invasive things “in the name of science, food, clothing, entertainment?”
  • How can we enrich the lives of animals?
    • First: Do no harm.
    • What we can do to expand our compassion footprint to coexist with other animals to make the world a more peaceful place for all beings?
    • The importance of humility and passion: we’re fragile and at the same time very destructive.
    • We need to build corridor of compassion and coexistence and rewild our hearts and celebrate and revere the interdependence of all beings and their homes.

Do dogs feel? What do they need? It’s a no-brainer. They need/want safety, security, and a resting place.

Greyhound is a good example of abuse and slaughter. You abuse the animal and slaughter their spirit.

How do people rationalize what they say and what they do?

Why do we want dogs to sit, stay and come? I don’t think we shouldn’t, but it’s important to ask why.

For Marc it’s for them, not for him. If you don’t think your life should change when you live with a dog, there is something wrong.

We should let dogs be dogs, understand who they are.

And even though we consider them our family they are not humans on 4 legs. They have a very different evolutionary history, and very different senses. “Why did you choose to live with a dog”. The answer “Oh, you know!” – It’s not good enough. “Oh, you know – I just wanted a dog” – Reply: “then why didn’t you get a stuffed dog?”

There are situations where it’s better to put the dog to sleep than to put it in a crappy home.

Berikning. Hur kan vi berika hundens liv? Some people like to think the training is enrichment.

Dogs are a wonderful way to teach people to be more compassionate.

The Smile of a Dophin – Marcs book banned in shools and libraries Texas. (6 months ago).

Minding animals means:

1)      Taking care of other animals and providing a life that is safe and peaceful. . .
2)      Attributing minds to them:

  1. we know they are clever and have deep and rich emotional lives and care very much about what happens to them;
  2. we know they are conscious and feel pain;

these facts are, or should be given, if not all of us, are here and care….

Some people say the animals act “as if they are happy”. Animals display their emotions very openly, unless they’ve been taught not to.

Hierarchical speciesism doesn’t work. Animals are not less than us or lower than us.

Understand the individual variability of animals.

In dog teaching/dog training one rule does not fit all.

Alla däggdjur hard et limbiska systemet och delar dåledes känsloliv.

Some people would say: I love Geraldine (rescue pig), but I also love Prosciutto.

K9 soldiers – documentary, they were considering the dogs, not only the soldiers. A lot of the dogs that come back from war suffer from PTSD (hjärnskada?). Andra exempel är Elefanter och Schimpanser. Elefanter halls och torteras på cirkusar, schimpanser på labb.

Man lär sig respektera cougars fort. Det har endast varit en attack i Colorado historiskt sett. Vid tre tillfällen har han varit nära cougars. Och han överlevde.

  • We’re a very conceited lot. Over-populated, over-consuming, big brained, big footed, arrogant and invasive mammals
  • Animals depend on our goodwill and best intentions
  • Caring about animals isn’t radical or extreme
  • We don’t have to apologize for caring and feeling
  • We don’t have to apologize for having a sense of wonder
  • We don’t have to feel badly for feeling
  • Caring about animals doesn’t mean caring less about humans
    • Compassion begets compassion
    • Violence begets Violence.

We are very confused about our relationships with animals…

  • Feeling differently doesn’t mean not feeling
  • Not doing something doesn’t mean can’t do something
  • Not expressing doesn’t mean not feeling.


Cross species comparisons are fraught with speciesism. When a mouse or bird outperforms a chimpanzee people rarely say mice or birds are smarter than chimpanzees but when the opposite is true, people do say that chimpanzees are smarter than mice or birds. And words like “higher” or “lower” have no place in these sorts of discussions.

Individuals do what they need tp be card-carrying members of their species.

Dogs do things cats can’t do and vice versa.

A psychologist at Harward Howard Gardner arguments Multiple Intelligences in humans, Art-intelligence, Music-intelligence etc… A friend of his (vet) talks about street-smart dogs – dogs that could live in the street. A lot of dogs who live with people have pretty easy lives.

Intelligence is slippery, its difficult to define. The same apply to dogs and other non-human animals. Different doesn’t mean bad, it just means different.

Speciesism doesn’t work. Snakes wont sniff asses.

Evolution – Adaption – Causation – Ontogeny | Private experience

Causation – What causes a behavior?

Ontogeny – Utveckling/Development

Dominance is not the same as aggression. We see that in humans. We see that in animals.

David Mech, David Mech is supposed to have said there is no such thing as dominance in wolves, but he never said that.  He has a lot of published articles where he indeed talks about dominance in wolves.

Beckoff talks about hierarchies in feral dogs, coyotes etc… Two years ago an article was published named “Dominance is a myth”. Dominance might mean: giving animals priority to food, or being the leader of a group. Rewarding the dog for doing something – it’s a form or control. But dominance doesn’t have to be negative. If I recall my dog I control its behavior, but its not a negative dominance.

Accepting the notion of dominance is very beneficial when working with dogs. But it can get too far, but the work of Cesar Millan, its horrible examples, because he intimidates the dogs and induces fear.

Severe fighting within a pack is very rare.

What’s the difference between leadership and dominance? Leadership – the one that walks first. Dominance and leadership aren’t only human concepts.

Some people say that you only see the dominance behaviors in caged animals. Beckoff thinks that they are just more expressed there, due to the confined space. You cannot have a big enough enclosure for a pack of wolves.

Beckoff talks about hierarchies among the males and among the females. Its not necessarily linear. There are both linear and non-linear hierarchies.

The basic behavior-patterns of wolves and dogs are very similar.

Human/Dog dominance/leadership: You are their leader. You take them out, take them to the vet etc. You are the leader, but not by dominance. You know better, you know there are cars etc.

Scientists believe: Evolutionary Continuity.

Differences among species are differences in degree rather than differences in kind. Grayscale, not black and white.

Dawkins’ Dangerous idea – We should be militantly agnostic about animal consciousness – Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness Animals are valuable because of what they can do for us.

If we feel grief, they feel grief. If we feel happiness, they feel happiness.

We express it differently, both within and between species.

Dogs are very selective about where they pee.

He did a study where he collected all the snow the dog peed on, this because you can read in books that dogs pee to mark territory but nobody had ever studied it (in free ranging dogs). What he found was that if they took the snow and moved it (when the dog didn’t see) is that dogs ARE good at recognizing their own pee vs other dogs pee.

Anthropomorphic double-talk. A double edged sword.

Anthropomorphism is “doing what comes naturally” and we need to do it carefully – critically – biocentrically… from the animal’s point of view … even many previous skeptics now agree… Everything we do to is inherently anthropocentric…

If we believe animals have emotional lives we’re not being anthropomorphic.
We’re not inserting something human into animals that they don’t have.

The question isn’t IF they feel emotions, the question is WHY.

Fewer and fewer scientists say that animals don’t feel emotions. Rats laugh when they are tickled.

Animals who love one another or who form very close social bonds prefer one another, travel with one another, defend food and territory together, miss one another etc.

All mammals show the same patterns of oxytocin levels. We respond the same way when we love someone as they do.

Do animals have a sense of awe or wonder? Do they exclaim “wow” as they ponder nature and the ups and downs of daily life? Do they have spiritual lives?

Break in horse – break the horse’s spirit.

Elephants have a very good sense of smell.

Animals grieve.

Do they have a concept of death like we do? He thinks not. He doesn’t think they sit around contemplating their own or someone elses death. They check to make sure they are not coming back. Birds have been observed doing funeral rituals.

Bambility (think dog)

Emotional relationships between species. In his neighborhood a dog, cat and mouse balanced on each other and their owner made money by letting people take pictures.

Individuals who have been subjected to the same abuse are drawn to each other. An 8 year old boy came to a farm which helps rehabilitate troubled youngsters and he walked straight up to the horse that had his identical background of abuse.

Servicedogs work better if they are happy.

Elephant rescue/rehabilitation center.

There are individual differences, and you need to take them into account.

Evolutionary continuity

Why did emotions evolve (not if)

Fish who has been studied show the same response to morphine as humans. Evidence that fish feel pain. Fish uses gestures to indicate to others where food is (pointing, headflicking).

Fåglar är smarta.

What does it all mean? Play behavior, moral behavior.

  • Why do animal feelings matter?
  • What are we going to do with what we know?
  • What can we do to make the lives of animals much better?
  • We need to work together, for animals – not against people
  • We need to be proactive, not reactive
  • We need to look for “uncommon messengers” – People you wouldn’t expect to care.
  • We’re the “re-genereation” – Re re-store, re-create, re-connect, re-establish, re-introduce, re-assess…
  • We have some strong opposition

We accept that dogs have feelings, but some say its ok to leave them alone all day, hit them etc.

Jeremy Bentham.

There is no correlation between how smart you are and how much you suffer.

On Continuity: polar bears go where they have always gone, where there has always been ice, but no there isn’t, so they get stranded and they drown. Polar bears are now hunting on land, and competing with brown bears. The ecosystem has changed.

Animals can adapt to the new environment, but what happens when humans are involved is that it happens too quickly and many animals die. Natural adaptations take millions of years.

“I’m not a vegetarian but I do love animals” – “You mean that you love animals except for the ones you eat!?!”

Do what you want, but live with your decisions. Nobody is perfect.

Pigs and Cows are no less sentient than dogs and cats. Make up your own mind.

In the last two month the Copenhagen zoo killed a giraffe named Marios and five lions. In Germany a baby bear was killed because the zoo feared it would be killed by its father. Italy has better regulations in the zoos.

“The Ghosts in our machine”.

AnimalsAsia Foundation. Jasper the moon bear

Kids and animals Jane Goodall


Important to, if you are going to work with domestic animals, not ignore what’s happening.

“When you love dogs and allow other animals to be harmed you need to deal with that inconsistency.”

Non-human animals who are carnivorous don’t have a choice. That’s just the way it is. A wild wolf probably could not survive on a vegetarian diet. Because they have incredibly energy-demanding lives.

Just because wolves and pumas hunt and eat meat doesn’t mean we have to.

What should our dogs eat? I know many dogs who do very well on vegetarian diet. They don’t get fat. He doesn’t buy the argument that dogs need meat because they were once wolves. People differ in opinion and that’s OK. He has seen many dogs live and thrive on vegetarian diet.

It’s our responsibility to stop producing dogs that are going to have a crappy life.

It might be important to get a dog not to run into traffic, and avoid predators.

Dogs often don’t do what we want them to do, and they are telling us something. If dogs are so boring as some people make them to be, it wouldn’t be so interesting to live with them.

When we understand play behavior we come to understand many other behaviors.

The latest research of animal behavior, inl dog & chimp, shows that more than 90-95% of their behavior is what we call positive/cooperative behavior. This doesn’t mean that they do not fight and do not harm themselves, but it is very rare compared to the positive behaviors. Social bonding-behaviors. People who say “you’re behaving like an animal” when someone does something wrong – they are wrong. It’s really a compliment when someone says “you’re an animal”.

Why dogs hump and bees get depressed.

Marc argues that dogs don’t love you unconditionally. Its insulting to dogs to say that they are always our best friend and always love us, because they don’t. Its true for both family-dogs and for feral dogs.

Rats know when another rat is in distress. And they will release the rat rather than have a piece of chocolate. (like most people)

Can animals be mean or cruel?

Some say that there is a gap between humans and animals in knowing right from wrong. He says that it is wrong.

Why study social play to learn about wild justice?

The ongoing interaction can be misinterpreted, play incorporates actions from other contexts such as aggression, mating etc. Play is a voluntary activity

Play requires cooperation, fairness, ongoing negotiations, apology, forgiveness, trust, reading others interntions and beliefs. Having a theory of mind, and empathy.
Perhaps mirror-neurons are important.

When a monkey picks up a pen, certain neurons fire in his brain. When a monkey sees another monkey picking up a pen, the same neurons fire.

Playbow: She sees me want to play, and her play-neurons fire.

Maybe they are involved, maybe they are not – We don’t know yet.

(Dogs don’t HAVE to be happy all the time. Nor do they need or want to. )

  • Play signals, honest signals
  • Role-reversals, chaser and “chasee”
  • Self-handicapping, they don’t bite as hard as they can
  • Highly valuable sequences that animals “read” as they are playing.

How do animals know that they are playing?

  • Variable sequences in play.

Dogs in dogparks vs dogs in leads/smaller cages. A dogpark should be at least one soccerfield large for them not to feel enclosed or inhibited.

There are characteristics of dog breed that play and fight differently, but there haven’t been enough studies on the subject.

As long as people argue against individual variability, individual dogs will suffer.

The play bow is not always a play signal, but it is rarely used out of the context of play, but when it is – it is important. One situation is in courtship.

Dogs and other animals (even humans) only play when they feel safe and relaxed.

Young kids wrestle, adults rarely wrestle. It would be good if we were not so inhibited.

“How little we know about individual patterns of play.”

Why do the play preferences differ within a litter?

Timid individuals seemed to prefer being the chaser.

Why is social play important? Why has it evolved? What’s it good for?

  1. Important in social development – learning communication skills, learning whats OK and whats not.
  2. Important in physical development – the “training response” – development of bones, muscles, tendons and joints etc
  3. Important in aerobic and anaerobic training
  4. Important in cognitive development and training
  5. Important for “training the unexpected”.

These are the five reasons why people say that animals play.

We know in humans that if individuals don’t play they often don’t learn communication skills. When they don’t learn communication skills, they don’t know how to ask for play, or that they are being asked to play.

The socialization period is between 1 and 2 month of age. If they don’t have contact with other dogs and other people in this period they don’t get socialized properly. “Don’t get a dog at a to young age”. The humans who do nasty things as adults are often people who never learned how to play (socipaths).

Aerobic – play at a low intensity for a very long time.

Anaerobic – start stop, start stop. Rest between times of play. Interval training.

An American study showed that teenagers are less empathic today than 20-30 years ago.

Many kids don’t go out and play, and so they have no idea how to interact face to face. Very good at chatting online or on their mobiles. This has an impact in our relations to other animals.

When puppies play they learn not to bite too hard, when adults play and bite too hard, there might be a fight.

Another function of play, the most basic one is training for the unexpected. What we mean by that is play trains animals to be able to deal with new contexts.



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