How Anthropomorphism Can Hurt Dog Training Efforts

November 9, 2020

online dog trainer school What is anthropomorphism? Anthropomorphism is assigning human characteristics to an object or animal. Anthropomorphism is a human trait – a pattern of behavior that was introduced to us at an early age. Think back to your childhood. Our families humanized dolls, stuffed animals, even rocks. Cartoon animals were dressed in clothing and given a voice. Some even lived in their own homes and drove cars. Anthropomorphism behavior is part of our daily life.

Is anthropomorphism a bad thing? Not entirely. Without it, we may lack compassion and empathy toward anything that is not human. If humans lacked anthropomorphism, a bond with wolves may never have been formed more than 33,000 years ago. Today dogs may not be man (and women’s) best friends.

When can anthropomorphism be a bad thing? When the behavior prevents us from recognizing and/or respecting the identity of a non-human being. We experience this most often between owners and their dogs. With people having children later in life, they tend to treat their dogs as little furry children, rather than a dog. The same holds true for empty nesters, who find that their parental guidance is viewed as intrusive and annoying by their children. They also tend to lavish their attention on their dog.

I am not implying that hosting a small birthday party for your dog is a bad thing. Honestly, these special events don’t necessarily enhance the dog’s life, but it usually doesn’t hurt it either. The problem arises when the humanized treatment causes damage to the dog. It doesn’t matter how much we love or need our dogs, they are not furry children. Nor are they human. They are a different species and treating them as something other than a canine causes stress and anxiety in the dog.

If clients want to improve the bond with their dog and solve behavioral issues, they must truly understand and respect canine behavior. What are some behaviors that humans need to understand and accept?

* Dogs thrive on rules and discipline. Letting your dog always have their way is not an act of kindness.
* Dogs need a leader
* Dogs thrive on routine
* Dogs are natural predators. They chase wildlife, hunt and sometimes kill.-
* They should not be left alone with children. Dogs will only tolerate certain behaviors for so long (this goes for adult interactions too) —
* They don’t enjoy hugs and kisses. They will tolerate it – until they don’t.
* Dogs require balanced meals.
* Dogs require mental stimulation and physical exercise
* Dogs should work for everything. Nothing in life should be given freely
* Due to their instinct to survive, dogs are territorial by nature.
* Dogs require socialization throughout their lifetime. Socializing your dog does not mean forcing them to engage in situations that are scary for them.
* should earn praise and not receive gratis praise
* Dogs need calm leadership and not emotional outbursts.
* Smelling dog butts is okay (when you’re a dog)
* Dogs find enjoyment by destroying their own toys
* and petting a nervous, angry or excited dog sends the wrong message.
* Dogs live in the moment. When they do something wrong, address it immediately. Revisiting the negative behavior later in the day is just confusing for the dog.
* There is no evidence that dogs exhibit feelings of remorse or spite.

Dog trainers need to devise a plan to effectively communicate to clients who suffer from severe anthropomorphism that their behavior is hurting their dog’s quality of life rather than improving it. Communicating the issue is the easy part. Convincing a client who does not understand canine behavior is the true challenge. What steps can you take to help human clients overcome this harmful behavior?

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