The Secret Life of the Dog
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The Secret Life of the Dog

2010, Nature  -   77 Comments
8.15
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Ratings: 8.15/10 from 153 users.

The Secret Life of the DogWe have an extraordinary relationship with dogs - closer than with any other animal on the planet. But what makes the bond between us so special?

Research into dogs is gaining momentum, and scientists are investigating them like never before. From the latest fossil evidence, to the sequencing of the canine genome, to cognitive experiments, dogs are fast turning into the new chimps as a window into understanding ourselves.

Where does this relationship come from? In Siberia, a unique breeding experiment reveals the astonishing secret of how dogs evolved from wolves. Swedish scientists demonstrate how the human/dog bond is controlled by a powerful hormone also responsible for bonding mothers to their babies.

Why are dogs so good at reading our emotions? Horizon meets Betsy, reputedly the world's most intelligent dog, and compares her incredible abilities to those of children. Man's best friend has recently gone one step further - helping us identify genes responsible for causing human diseases.

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José de Anchieta
José de Anchieta
3 years ago

t is a pity that such a video does not have English subtitles so that foreigners have a complete understanding of the content.

Civic space.
Civic space.
4 years ago

tribes in the Amazon take all manner of animals as pets.

please investigate outdoor dog lavatories. please pick up after your dog every time.

Lynsey
Lynsey
5 years ago

Very interesting but I found some of the experiments extremely cruel and infuriating!!! Stealing wolf cubs from their mum and raising them in the house to see if they would behave like dogs?! I could have told they wouldn’t behave like dogs - they are wild animals!!! And that awful farm with all those poor silver foxes locked in tiny cages? Absolutely disgusting! And for absolutely no real useful reason either! Why do we need to know how long it takes to domesticate animals? We don’t! I was quite appalled when I saw this.

Cynthia Chan
Cynthia Chan
5 years ago

Love this show! It's so interesting, & love seeing all the beautiful dogs. I'm new to dog ownership & am learning some great information! Can't wait to see the shows each week

Connor
Connor
5 years ago

There's a lot of interesting information in this documentary, but some of the conclusions they draw from observations of canine behavior is just baffling. All assertions are backed by the findings of "researchers" without mention of who those researchers are or where they work. An "experiment" you can perform at home where you show your dog two identical opaque cups, put a treat in one, and then let them find it is described as "proving your dog can understand concepts and use process of elimination."

...Yeah, maybe it proves that. Or maybe the dog can smell the treat. Dogs have a really good sense of smell. They can also see, and remember where items are located.

This was an interesting documentary, but the cost of sensationalizing science often manifests as decreased accuracy of information. That's very apparent in some of these sequences.

Paula
Paula
6 years ago

Lots of good info but...they don't read eye movement in each other? News to me! They do it all the time! what in the world are these people talking about?

Dalida
Dalida
7 years ago

It seems I'm fully alone with this feeling but I noticed the same tendency in so many documentaries and this one was no exception: the music and the trailer, etc all sound as if we will be going to find out some incredible new information about dogs when in fact the whole documentary said nothing, but literally nothing new. I understand that studies are important but I didn't pick up any remarkable information than the everyday dog owner does not know. What did this documentary actually reveal? I'm very disappointed. Someone mentioned part 3 so maybe this is just the first part in a series and if that's true, maybe the other parts will reveal more interesting and useful information, but I probably won't be watching more of this. For me it was a complete waste of time.

Layla
Layla
7 years ago

Dogs are cool and u are training them really good

Lovesallanimals
Lovesallanimals
7 years ago

Perfect comment well made Sharon Smith. Owning a dog is no less responsibility than your first child or even owning another domesticated animal. Don't have one if you aren't prepared to put in the hard work and learn how to look after them, giving them the life they deserve based on thier emotional, physical and environmental needs. That means time, money, love and devotion amongst other things for thier lifetime. Not to mention educating yourself before you have one and constantly learning to improve thier lives once they are with you. There is an overpopulation of unwanted and abused dogs in the world, so let's start there please and put our human intelligence to good use by helping the world's intelligent creatures of all kinds.

Zakkaria
Zakkaria
8 years ago

Anyone that has never had a dog as missed so very much.

sharon smith
sharon smith
8 years ago

If this program does nothing else apart from help us understand dogs better so we can in turn care for them better then it can only be a good thing. They have nothing else to do other than to study us, it's only fair if we are going to take on the responsibility of a dog in our lives that we do our best to study them so we can make their lives happier. Too many dogs have rotten lives simply because their owners can't be bothered with them once the novalty has worn off or because they're abused. People should never get a dog "for the kids" ... they're not toys - HAVE DOG - BE RESPONSIBLE. Give them the kind and caring training, direction and care they need. That's what pack leaders do!

anna miller
anna miller
10 years ago

Humans can't love each other, so we have animals. The science of relations between dogs and people. The genetics and evolution of the dog, and what it says about humans.

Mark Lysons
Mark Lysons
11 years ago

I watched this right after 'How Many People Can Fit on Planet Earth?' BBC Horizon. I fear with future water shortages, man's best friend might deplete future numbers of canines as we conserve water for ourselves.

Try to keep them alive!

dog catel
dog catel
11 years ago

frumos

Tony
Tony
11 years ago

i think the dogs are sniffing the treat. under the bowl.

ulickmcgee
ulickmcgee
11 years ago

Who is a good boy ,woof.Ha ha.Of course there is no doubt they are clever and intelligent,any animal that can worm there way into a persons bed and have there owners care for there every need is highly intelligent in my book.Or else its just humans are soft in the head ha ha.

Rolf_copter
Rolf_copter
11 years ago

It's funny reading some of the comments. You are all agreeing that dogs are intelligent. Yet all in your own way. I don't disagree that dogs are really, really intelligent. I just believe it's not only dogs. Anyway, something i have come to realize. It could have been dogs that became the top of the food chain. Not us. I also know we are closely related to rats. XD

Brandon Beaith
Brandon Beaith
12 years ago

I still love dogs...especially my mutts jorge,louie, and ben :)

Kameron Cregar
Kameron Cregar
12 years ago

Aphex Twin, Moondog, quite the soundtrack! Dogs are the best.

KooKookaChoo
KooKookaChoo
12 years ago

wow, I see a lot of similarities between Betsy's abilities and my dog. She is also (part) border collie (and chow -- weird mix, but she has a polka-dot tongue!). She has an excellent "vocabulary" and I have a few toys that are in multiples - if I hold one and tell her to get the other she does with no problem. I've never tried pictures. I think I'll start training her more in this area, I'm sure she'd love the mental exercise!

Francois Jobin
Francois Jobin
12 years ago

each dogs are so different. but each dogs have a true consienceness. they know who they are among us. they really see and feel our emotions and adapt themself on our mood. well I think dogs can see the human aura and they remember our colors patterns when by example someone do a heart attack the electical pattern will change on and in the victim body. and thats is the changing colors in the aura. its only a photon detector that posses dogs

SODDOMHUSSER
SODDOMHUSSER
12 years ago

hmmm dogs with a bit of mustard !!!!

Ellenfrodo
Ellenfrodo
12 years ago

My heart belongs to them..infinately

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

One of the best movies. My heart belongs to them..

politicalatheist1
politicalatheist1
12 years ago

What about the agricultural societies that arose in the America's without dogs. It would appear non hunter- gatherer ways of life would arise without our canine friends.

Donna Jessie Lucy
Donna Jessie Lucy
12 years ago

Part 3 Interesting but incorrect statement that humans and dogs are both carnivores. They are not. Human are omnivores. Dogs are scavengers. That is how they evolved to be dogs, by scavenging from human waste piles. Biological changes accompnied that: smaller brains, small jaws and teeth etc.

Oneironaut
Oneironaut
12 years ago

I, for one, welcome our German canine overlords.

Also, the pointing experiment was a joke. Dogs have a sense of smell that is something like 100,000 times the power of the human sense of smell. I doubt a plastic bowl accounts for that experimental confound.

Otherwise, interesting stuff.

Teddy Mcd
Teddy Mcd
12 years ago

And the what?

Teddy Mcd
Teddy Mcd
12 years ago

ya - done on a grill. - LOL

Ben Ji
Ben Ji
12 years ago

great documentary, dogs sure are smart and can read emotions, sometimes we just don't realize it

Ann Patrone
Ann Patrone
12 years ago

I enjoyed this documentary well enough, but I was disappointed that the filmmakers didn't realize that they were trying to judge "intelligence" based on the human model - on living beings that aren't human.

Ann Patrone
Ann Patrone
12 years ago

All animals have their own innate intelligence. It's a damn shame we humans aren't more open to realizing that fundamental fact before we troll and slash and burn and experiment on and factory farm and all the other things we do to desecrate the inhabitants of this beautiful planet.

PavolvsBitch
PavolvsBitch
12 years ago

Betsy the border collie was the star of this limited docu - borders are my favourite all time canine (although I've never had one as yet) as their innate intelligence shines through, engaging or even demanding human interaction. As for the rest of the docu, it always strikes me at how banal so-called 'scientific explanations' are for emotional/psychic intelligence. But then, mainstream is for dummies. Selective breeding in dogs reflects the same criteria for humans; we're being bred for docility and compliance and that's why the more aggressively intelligent genes in our pool are being targeted as 'terrorists' much the same as the natural fox is labelled 'a dragon' in this film. With humans, of course, being chemically koshed does produce base and primitive aggressive types, so we get the worst of both worlds via scientific engineering.

alastair1
alastair1
12 years ago

i think it is amazing how the dog would learn language after 5 or 6 months when they learn all their other skills much before then. I wonder how deep the implications go

kate
kate
12 years ago

The Border Collie in this docu is amazing. But our Border Collie, a normal sort of mutt, is just about as intelligent. We have to spell out lots of words otherwise he knows what we're talking about and acts on it. If he hears someone he knows on the phone, he'll 'ask' to see them (getting his collar and your coat for example). What's remarkable is his ability to choose to show sorrow and ask for forgiveness if he's been naughty. Even before we spot the wrong he's done, he'll pre-empt our possible annoyance with distinct body language and wanting to cuddle us. Something equally remarkable is that he will also understand when you're upset or hurt and will actively try to cheer you up by coming to cuddle you or putting his paw on your lap or bringing you his favourite cuddly toy. These empathic abilities are just in him, we had no expectations of such high level behaviour at all.

This is a fascinating docu which shows how we are beginning to respect dogs far more via new research, accurate observation and understanding. The talking head who pontificates that puppies are parasitic on humans is totally missing the point though - he needs HIS head examined!

david121090
david121090
12 years ago

so do dogs have a soul?????

Brandon Beaith
Brandon Beaith
12 years ago

i love dogs

Jessica Lauren Tedder
Jessica Lauren Tedder
12 years ago

So..in terms of pointing to the treat as proof that dogs understand gestures--dogs have a much more sophisticated sense of smell than apes or humans. The smell alone of the treat could have directed them to the right place

Stephen Wood
Stephen Wood
12 years ago

Did ya hear about the dyslexic, agnostic , insomniac? He stayed up all night wondering if there really was a dog.

kirastianity
kirastianity
12 years ago

This was "dogs decoded." A summarized version of it, but the content is the same. Anyways, I'm still very proud of being a dog owner.

Malaclypse_the_Younger
Malaclypse_the_Younger
12 years ago

This sounds almost exactly like the "Dogs Decoded" doc, which is also on this site... which was excellent.

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

Possibly the most interesting doc i ever watched on dogs. Very interesting. Makes me think of all kind of hypothesis.
az

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

Dogs and other Canine are the "most spread smart animals" in the world and some of the most dangerous non domesticated. Are we going from monkey to human to werewolf, sure a good plot for a novel!
az

gobacktobedamerica
gobacktobedamerica
12 years ago

A "very important guy" even says we're carnivores... this documentary is missing several important fact verifications.

I aint very fond of the animal experiments aka. nazi fur farm wannabes (to get a "better understanding" of dogs) either. Poor foxes and the other animals they were using for fun facts.

Some parts made me cry, most parts made me laugh, a few parts made me think.

cjpiti
cjpiti
12 years ago

Personally, I believe that somebody way back in time was quite simply dyslexic. Think about it, Unconditional love, always forgiving, just wanting to make you happy. I'm CERTAIN that if someone were to research it further they would find that " GOD" is, well DOG! If nothing else its a more believable
story than the hundreds I've heard. Just a thought.