In Kids & Family

If you're naughty, Roxie will tell her mom on you.

When pets seem human

OK, so your dog or cat isn't really a human, but he or she might be very human-like in some ways. According to psychologist and canine researcher Stanley Coren, dogs can count, understand more than 150 words and even intentionally trick other dogs and people for treats.

Although dogs' abilities vary depending on the breed and the individual canine, Coren believes their mental abilities are similar to those of a human child between the age of 2 and 3.

Through studies and research, Coren also concluded that most dogs can count up to four or five, notice simple math errors such as 1+1=3 and can operate latches and simple machines.

Stacy LaPoint, owner of Fresh Is Best pet food company, has been a caregiver and avid researcher of dogs for her most of her life. LaPoint agrees with Coren's age assessment.

"I have always called dogs 'forever toddlers' because they love to play, are completely innocent except for when they exhibit jealousy and bullying and they can't stand another dog to have the toy they want," says LaPoint, who has a 70-pound pit bull named Blue and a 20-pound miniature Pinscher mix named Minnow.

Blue and Minnow: Forever in their "terrible twos." And in their "terrific twos," too.

Betsy Holmes says her dog, Atticus, has an extremely high emotional intelligence.

"He is highly attuned to our moods and gets upset when there is anger or tension going on," says Holmes. "Also, he not only smiles when I rub his belly, he reaches out his paws to 'hug' me."

Because domesticated dogs are cared for by humans, it's natural that they would emulate some of our behaviors. Most dogs are enamored with their owners and display signs of unconditional love and adoration.

"Our dog, Argos, will take food from his bowl in the kitchen and bring it to the dining room so that he can eat with us," says Miriam Sushman.

Gemma Tarlach has two dogs – she recently lost her third dog, Waldo, in October – and says all of them "sit nicely" and lift one paw to their chest when they are impatient or waiting for something they want, like a treat or a toy.

"I call it their Southern Lady 'I do declare!' move," says Tarlach, who believes one of the dogs actually taught the other two the gesture.

However, dogs sometimes exhibit the uglier sides of humans.

"One of my dogs is a racist," says Tarlach. "I'm so embarrassed. She was like that when I got her."

Tarlach says if her dog, Tyche, she sees an African-American male – especially a young man in a hoodie – she snarls and barks. She will sometimes bark at men on television who fit her "profile."

"She was found as a stray and had some marks that indicated potential abuse, so I can only guess that her 'racism' is actually an on-guard reaction to individuals who in her mind resemble the person or persons who hurt her as a puppy," says Tarlach. "I might be totally wrong about that, but it's more comforting, strangely, to think that rather than she's just a racist who would probably vote for Trump if given the chance."

Tyche for Trump?

Sarah Berg and Amy Underberg have a "chug" – a chihuahua-pug mix – named Pepper who also discriminates.

"She'll bark more and more furiously at large dogs than the grumpy growl she gives small dogs," says Berg.

Pepper don't dig big. (Photo by Central Bark - Downtown.)

Steph Kilen says her dog, Neville Dogbottom, will head butt the crotch of people he does not know. Originally, this was stressful for Kilen, because she liked having friends, both old and new, in her home for meals and parties.

"I was almost resenting him for it, but then I realized he's like me, like a lot of us introverts," says Kilen. "I'm really not a fan of meeting new people and social situations involving many people. I'm a human, so I've figured out how to cope – some nice self-assurance and gin help – but poor Nevs has a walnut brain and doesn't drink, so he head butts. I get it, dude. If I'm honest, there are times I'd like to do that, too."

Cassy Scrima's dog, Roxie, "tattles" on her doggy siblings when they are doing something wrong.

"Just last night when I got home from work she was trying to get my attention in the bathroom by nudging her nose into the door. I came out and suspected there was trouble," says Scrima. "Sure enough, her brother Hachi was in his human brother's room eating an entire wholesale-sized tub of turtle food."

Chris Beetow is a local illustrator who specializes in creating portraits for pet owners all over the world. Her goal through her drawings is to capture the "inner pet" and, in order to do so, she asks clients to share stories that describe their pet's unique personalities.

Not surprisingly, caregivers often describe their pets in ways that sound as if they are describing human beings.

"As you can imagine, many people describe their pets as loving and sweet, but sometimes I get really in-depth insights such as a Maine Coon cat described as 'the most flamboyantly gay man on the planet' or an angry chihuahua's behavior explained by the fact that 'his heart is so small, it just can't hold much love,'" says Beetow.

"Human behavior" is not just common in dogs, cats can emulate humans beings as well. Tarlach's cat, Charles, displays what she calls "Felix Unger-like" behavior when it comes to the cleanliness of his litter box.

"When it is clean – and I clean it 2-3 times a day to satisfy him – he often sits beside it and does 'zen gardening' with one paw, making patterns and arranging it in what I can only assume is a pleasing manner," says Tarlach.

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