- Michelle Hill
- I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!
Monday, March 25, 2019
Is Humanizing Harmful to Our Dogs
Anthropomorphize – “the attribution of uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, phenomena, material states, and objects or abstract concepts.” Eric Goebelbecker
How many times have you or someone you know referred to a dog as a “four-legged child” or “Fur Kid”? I myself have many times. In itself, there really is nothing wrong with wanting to treat your dog like one of the family but just as you would look out for the well being of your family members, you have to look out for your pet’s as well. Going overboard on how much you baby your pet can be psychologically harmful to their well being.
Dogs need certain things for them to lead healthy happy lives. The top 5 are:
1. A confident leader - not a dominant pack leader, but someone who sets rules and boundaries and helps hold them accountable to them. Someone who helps them to LEARN how to live in our lives.
2. Exercise - actual activity to burn energy. This can be play in the back yard if it's structured play. A good long 30 minute or more game of fetch or chase in the yard. Running through an Agility course.
3. Structure - Making Training an everyday part of life. Sitting before going in and out of doors, not dashing out a door just because it's open.
4. Rules - Those rules and boundaries we talked about in #1. Don't jump on our guests, don't steal food from our hands or our tables and such.
5. Boundaries - Only allowed up on the furniture when invited up.
The above are just examples of boundaries we have in our house. Every house has to set its own rules and boundaries. When we do not set these ground rules, we don’t understand the real harm that we are causing our dogs. Our lack of consistency can sow the seeds of Separation Anxiety in our dogs.
By imposing thoughts and behaviors that are not really part of our dog's thought processes, we try to make them seem and “act” more human. Dogs have drives that set them apart from humans. The three main drives of dogs are prey, defense, and pack. Each of these drives causes dogs to behave in ways that we do not always understand. When we treat our dogs like they are little humans we are not looking out for their best interests. By assigning human traits and personalities to dogs we turn a blind eye to their language, behaviors, and needs. Doing this can cause serious psychological problems for the dog that can manifest in a number of different ways including stress, chewing, and even digestive issues.
Prey drive is something we have almost all dealt with. When you see your dog going after his stuffed toy making it squeak and tearing the stuffing from it, that is Prey drive. The reality of the situation is that he is practicing killing skills. These are basic innate attributes that dogs have that passed down for generations, no amount of carrying them around in a little fashionable bags is going to change that.
I met a little dog, who we shall name Fufu (to protect her true identity) that was unable to even interact with other people and dogs because of her fear. She had been adopted from a pet rescue. The owner had not properly socialized her and treated the dog as her child. She cradled her like a baby against her chest and protested against the fact that her dog would need to go outside. These situations are not good for dogs. If her owner would just allow her to “be” a dog and give her the things she needs in her life to be stable, I think she would have had a very different attitude towards other dogs and people. In itself being “babied” as such may not be to0much for some dogs, but this little dog was so fearful and nervous that she couldn’t even hold down her breakfast.
It’s often said of humans that we need all things in moderation I think the same principle should also be applied for how we humanize our dogs. Take dressing your dog for example. You have the owner of a short-haired small dog who puts a warm shirt or coat on their dog in the winter versus the owner who dresses their dog up in PJs every night for bed. The first owner is being responsible and looking out for their pet while having their pet out in the elements. Is the second owner is taking it a bit far and treating the dog as they would their child in dressing them for bed?
Which one do you think could be anthropomorphizing their dog?
Since originally writing this post I have gotten my dream breed. A Corgi, I do indeed put pajamas on him at night but it's to keep him from shedding all over my bed more than anything.
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