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Anthropomorphism – Dogs as Humans

Anthropomorphism – Dogs as Humans

For most training methods, anthropomorphism is a cardinal sin – and to a certain extent this is valid. Dogs will never be ‘humans in furry coats’, and it is not always helpful to apply our human characteristics to them.  However, both species do share fundamental needs and similarities. All animals need food; all need to feel safe and secure; all have the desire to procreate; all will protect their young with their lives; all have evolved in the most appropriate way to live comfortably in their chosen environment; all will fight by whatever means available for their survival … and all need to relax and have fun.
Very young children display these common traits to perfection. Neither dogs nor toddlers have any concept of right or wrong, good or bad, kind or cruel, honest or dishonest – they just do what it takes for their own survival.
With children, we understand this and encourage and teach in a very gentle and age-appropriate way. We do not bark commands at them, we do not punish them for not understanding, we show them by example how we want them to behave, where the boundaries lie, what it takes to fit in and thrive in their world, until they reach an age where they can understand what is required and start to make the right choices for themselves. Even then, because we have shown them that we are to be trusted to make all the good decisions, they will naturally look to their parent as a source of safety and learning whenever they are unsure of how to act.
Children have the advantage of, first, being human; second, they have the ability to understand the spoken word in a way that dogs never will; and third, they have a much more complex brain which is able to reason, understand past, present and future actions or planned actions, and the likely consequences of their deeds. By the age of around three, they can begin to understand what is expected of them in terms of behaviour.
Dogs cannot develop understanding in the same way, so we need to adapt our training and nurturing to make it dog-specific. They are a different species living in an alien world, unable to understand why we give signals which are often diametrically opposed to those which are hard-wired into their canine psyche. They cannot understand more than a few words of our language, so every bit as much as tiny children, they need a human who understands what it takes to make them feel safe and secure.
Humans and dogs may react best to different approaches, but their needs are similar. You take the time and trouble to find what works for your child – so do the same for your dog!
Dogs are amazingly adaptable; they usually, somehow, manage to fit into a world which makes little sense to them – as long as they live with kind, if ignorant, humans! The unlucky ones do not get even this help – they are beaten for doing wrong, and shouted at for not understanding. More often than not, the focus is on punishing them for not doing as the human wishes, but they’re never shown in a kind and patient way what the human does require from them. They can often end up aggressive, shut down, or just generally an emotional mess.
In a natural or ‘wild’ environment, canines have evolved to survive very successfully. They have a set of rules by which they live, mainly non-verbal, using body language which all canines understand perfectly. They have developed a way of doing things that enables them to exist perfectly in their physical environment.

NOVEMBER 3RD, 2013 @ 13:28:39 GMT


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