Blog Pi-Bo

Can the Dog Seek Revenge or Get Offended?

We, people, have a tendency to humanize animals. We attribute our thoughts to them and project our feelings onto them. If Edmund peed in your guest’s shoes, that, in our opinion, means that he took offense at getting not enough attention. If furry Susan left mum a self-produced chocolate gift on a pillow, rest assured, she’s taking her revenge for something. Thus, we keep forgetting that our canine friends’ brains don’t have this level of complexity and abstract thinking of our level is simply unavailable to them.  Revenge and offense are exactly the complex abstract notions we’re talking about. To feel them, one should be able to create complex logical connections. So, we’ll say frankly: our Susans simply can’t feel vengeful and take offense. 

But I saw it with my own eyes! - some followers might say. Well, let’s figure out what it really was and what it means in the doggo world.

Dog’s revenge

You have an important zoom call, you’re sitting down, all ready quarantine style: pantless in your best business suit jacket. Everyone in the family (except fluffy Susan) knows it’s serious and you must not be disturbed. Susan approaches the suit jacket, desperate to play with your at this exact moment, you say ‘no’ and 2 minutes later she leaves her comment in yellow right on your bed. Looks like a deliberate act of revenge, doesn't  it?   

In fact, if it was not Susan who did it but your kid or husband, one could have interpreted it as ‘vengeance act’ (although such tactics from a husband may raise controversy in the household). Theoretically a human can build this logical sequence: she did this, therefore she doesn’t love and respect me anymore, I’ll go ruin that new orthopedic mattress of hers out of spite.

Fluffy Susan’s logical sequence in this case is much simpler and shorter. The good girl came to her mum to play, mum, nervous about her zoom call, snapped at her. Susan, (not knowing what zoom is and why it’s so important to mum) got really stressed. In her eyes the world turned from a good cozy place into chaos, where her own mum instead of ‘hey, what’s up, baby’ reacts with ‘go to hell, Susan!’ Because of this stress Susan’s cortisol level starts spiking, her excretory system begins acting crazy, a minute later she’s dying to pee but she cannot ask her mum to go for a walk because the zoom thing obviously turned her into a crazy lady, so, Susan has to take care of things by herself from now on. To balance things off in this weird universe, she goes to a good calm place which smells nice and familiar - to the bed. So, instead of “I’ll show you!’ attitude we have a completely different and way more primitive situation: ‘a scare - physiological response - flight’.

Here’s one more simple example. 

You’re swamped at work and come home 2 hours later than usual. The garbage bag you forgot to take out is disassembled to pieces, the whole floor surface is covered with some of its insides, making an elegant contemporary art installation. The other part of the insides is now safely hidden inside Edmund. After all, it’s the 21st century and the artist doesn’t have to be starving anymore. 

The first thing to cross the parent’s mind is - surely, this is Edmund’s revenge for me being late. However, things are not as complicated  in the doggo world: it’s just an unsupervised bag with free samples of dad’s lunches and dinners free for the taking, plus, it has empty toilet paper rolls, yay! According to the dog law, all things which no one claimed to be theirs, automatically belong to the doggo. And if so - why can’t Edmund do whatever he wants with his belongings?   

The doggo asks for forgiveness when it did something bad

One more argument which seems to support dog’s' ability for abstract thinking is the dog’s tendency to ask forgiveness for their misbehavior. You come home, and here is Susan, a guilty look on her face, eyes downcast, filled with cosmic sadness. There must be a puddle of pee somewhere! And Susan knows exactly what she’s doing! 

Actually, no. The doggo is just trying to anticipate the conflict which took place before. 

Let’s say she has peed in the house before and was scolded by you afterwards. Naturally, these events became interconnected in her head: if there is a puddle of pee on the floor, dad gets angry. Then, by accident, of course (not out of vengeance, it’s just that her physiology failed her) she left a puddle of pee in the house again and she realizes that there’s gonna be some trouble. She comes to this realization not because she understands that peeing in the house is bad (doggos don’t have moral categories of good and bad, simply because the notion of morality is unavailable to them) but because dad gets furious when seeing a puddle: his face turning red, fingers angrily pointing at stuff over Susan’s head - most gruesome scenes from Kubrick’s Shining are nothing compared to this horror. 

That’s why when greeting parents at the door, she’s doing her best to ease the anticipated tension. Susan is using the most powerful weapon she has - cute sad eyes and squishy cheeks. Who can resist that?