This is a movement as completely opposite as is possible to any show of resistance. I formerly possessed a large dog who was not at all afraid to fight with other dogs; but a wolf-like shepherd-dog in the neighbourhood, though not ferocious and not so powerful as my dog, had a strange influence over him. When they met on the road, my dog used to run to meet him, with his tail partly tucked in between his legs and hair not erected; and then be would throw himself on the ground, belly upwards. By this action he seemed to say more plainly than by words, "Behold, I am your slave." A pleasurable and excited state of mind, associated with affection, is exhibited by some dogs in a very peculiar manner, namely, by grinning. This was noticed long ago by Somerville, who says, And with a courtly grin, the fawning bound Salutes thee cow'ring, his wide op'ning nose Upward he curls, and his large sloe-back eyes Melt in soft blandishments, and humble joy.' _The Chase_, book i.Sir W. Scott's famous Scotch greyhound, Maida, had this habit, and it is common with terriers. I have also seen it in a Spitz and in a sheep-dog. Mr. Riviere, who has particularly attended to this expression, informs me that it is rarely displayed in a perfect manner, but is quite common in a lesser degree. The upper lip during the act of grinning is retracted, as in snarling, so that the canines are exposed, and the ears are drawn backwards; but the general appearance of the animal clearly shows that anger is not felt. Sir C. Bell[3] remarks "Dogs, in their expression of fondness, have a slight eversion of the lips, and grin and sniff amidst their gambols, in a way that resembles laughter." Some persons speak of the grin as a smile, but if it had been really a smile, we should see a similar, though more pronounced, movement of the lips and ears, when dogs utter their bark of joy; but this is not the case, although a bark of joy often follows a grin. On the other hand, dogs, when playing with their comrades or masters, almost always pretend to bite each other; and they then retract, though not energetically, their lips and ears. Hence I suspect that there is a tendency in some dogs, whenever they feel lively pleasure combined with affection, to act through habit and association on the same muscles, as in playfully biting each other, or their masters' hands. I have described, in the second chapter, the gait and appearance of a dog when cheerful, and the marked antithesis presented by the same animal when dejected and disappointed, with his head, ears, body, tail, and chops drooping, and eyes dull. Under the expectation of any great pleasure, dogs bound and jump about in an extravagant manner, and bark for joy. The tendency to bark under this state of mind is inherited, or runs in the breed: greyhounds rarely bark, whilst the Spitz-dog barks so incessantly on starting for a walk with his master that he becomes a nuisance. [1] `The Anatomy of Expression,' 1844, p. 140.An agony of pain is expressed by dogs in nearly the same way as by many other animals, namely, by howling writhing, and contortions of the whole body. Attention is shown by the head being raised, with the ears erected, and eyes intently directed towards the object or quarter under observation. If it be a sound and the source is not known, the head is often turned obliquely from side to side in a most significant manner, apparently in order to judge with more exactness from what point the sound proceeds. But I have seen a dog greatly surprised at a new noise, turning, his head to one side through habit, though he clearly perceived the source of the noise. Dogs, as formerly remarked, when their attention is in any way aroused, whilst watching some object, or attending to some sound, often lift up one paw (fig. 4) and keep it doubled up, as if to make a slow and stealthy approach. A dog under extreme terror will throw himself down, howl, and void his excretions; but the hair, I believe, does not become erect unless some anger is felt. I have seen a dog much terrified at a band of musicians who were playing loudly outside the house, with every muscle of his body trembling, with his heart palpitating so quickly that the beats could hardly be counted, and panting for breath with widely open mouth, in the same manner as a terrified man does.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 50

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book