Dogs Are People, Too

A very interesting article in the New York Times, on mapping brain activity in dogs. (And a very nice use of neuroscience to break free of the bonds of behaviorism.)

Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.

[M]any of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.

The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.

We’ll talk about animal rights in a future post. Even without this scientific exploration into animal sentience, there are serious ethical issues with the way we think about the treatment of animals.