The word of the day, ladies and gentlemen, is Anthropomorphism.
That’s what I said the first time I heard the word. I was asked what it meant and, meanwhile, I was just walking up to the group of interns at Sea Life park. I couldn’t tell you what the instructor then went on to say because, well, I was young and really embarrassed that I was called out in front of everyone.
BUT I remembered that day and that word and I’ve found that it plays a HUGE part in owning an animal, not just a dog.
According to Websters, Anthropomorphism is defined as:
“an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics”
In other words, non-human things are given human emotions and/or characteristics.
Kim, of ALLLLLL the things you could write about, why in the Sam Hell are you talking about this?
Well I’m glad you asked.
See, everyone gives their dogs human characteristics. Even the Disney movies do it. The made the dinosaur, Rex, in Night at the Museum do a play bow before the bone was thrown to him. The horse in Tangled searches for Flynn, the villain, by smelling the ground. Even toothless in How to Train Your Dragon has canine characteristics!
The reason I write about this is because I want to tell you is that while dogs are very emotional and have a large ability to learn, they are very simple creatures.
We don’t know the extent of their cognitive abilities but they’re not thinking in several steps back to come to a decision on what they REALLY want to feel.
They’re very consequence oriented. They want to have a leader. They want direction and rules to follow.
There’s danger in giving your dog human emotions. You set yourself AND your dog up for failure.
What if your dog refuses to perform a simple behavior. Maybe you went over it a few times the day before and you thought your dog knew it. NOW you’re thinking to yourself:
“He’s just being stubborn. He’s KNOWS I need to leave and he’s just being difficult.”
What if your dog doesn’t REALLY know the criteria that you set up for the behavior?
What if your dog KNOWS your schedule and KNOWS you have to leave and doesn’t want you to because, well, you’re his person?
Giving your dog human behaviors set it up so you are resenting your dog on a daily basis. BUT, it’s never too late to turn things around.
To set it up so you definitely KNOW if your dog is giving you the metaphorical middle finger, or if they’re just being difficult, it’s important to train your dog correctly and effectively.
Make sure that your dog absolutely KNOWS the behavior you’re trying to teach them. Train for a period of time that is acceptable for that behavior. Sit might be for a week or so but staying in place while you go out of the room for three minutes might be a month or so.
Take note of the entire environment when you are asking for a behavior and your dog just isn’t complying.
- Is your dog giving you odd body language in the situation? They might be telling you that they’re not comfortable with something.
- Are you a little irritated and using a different tone of voice? Believe it or not, you don’t have to yell at your dog to have them listen. They hear you perfectly fine.
- How are you looking at your dog when you ask for the behavior? I know it sounds crazy but eye contact is HUGE for a dog. That’s one way they communicate with each other. You could, inadvertently, be telling your dog you are super upset with them without even knowing it.
- Are you asking your dog to do something he/she doesn’t like to do? Can you change it up so you can ask for another behavior and get the same desired outcome?
- Has your dog made a negative connection/association with the behavior? Did something bad happen before during the training or when you were asking for the behavior previously that made your dog not want to do the behavior anymore?
Our dogs are members of our family. They greet us in the morning. The snuggle with us at night. While we might think of them as human at times, their level of thinking isn’t quite there. They’re not thinking in terms of purposeful noncompliance to piss you off. Generally, there’s another reason. Generally, there’s something else going on around them or underneath the surface.
Have you ever given your dog human emotions? Has it been in a positive or negative way? I’d love to hear:)
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Show your dog some love today. Happy Training everyone!