We’re all guilty of it - but most of us don’t even know what it is!
There’s little doubt that dog owners today are far more educated on the main principles of dog behaviour and to some extent, canine psychology, but the huge growth in the pet behaviour industry also tells the tale that modern dogs are as naughty today as they’ve ever been.
Ryan O'Meara thinks he might know why and asks 'are you guilty of anthropomorphism?'
For years Hollywood has portrayed film-star canines as animals whose motivations are based on human perceptions and values. Lassie saves a rabbit from death, for example, or Benji solves a crime, or Rin Tin Tin protects the fort from outlaws.
Could this misguided view of canine psychology be a major contributing factor to a large percentage of undesired dog behaviour seen in thousands, if not millions of homes around the world?
Expecting a dog to do things he simply cannot or has no understanding of is not uncommon. Expecting dogs to think as we humans do is also widespread. The reason the dog beat off competition from all other animals to the title of man’s best friend is in no small part to do with his sheer skill at adapting his way of life to fit in with ours. It is this skill that is the likely cause for our frequent misreading of his intentions and motives.
Us modern dog owners are, almost without exception, guilty of inadvertently teaching our dogs bad behaviour by simply not, for want of a better expression, treating a dog like a dog. Ouch! Why did I feet a little pang of guilt when I wrote that? Why do I feel like the bad guy or some kind of archaic, Victorian disciplinarian for saying it’s not only OK to treat a dog like a dog, it’s the BEST way to live in harmony with them?
Many dogs have their personalities labeled fairly early on in their lives. They can be painted as spiteful, daft, stubborn, ignorant, jealous, mischievous and sometimes just plain bad. “You bad dog!” We’ve all heard it and many of us have used it.
The problem is, whenever we try to evaluate canine behaviour using human values we are misinterpreting our dogs emotions and behavioural motives.
All but the very worst anthropomorphic dog owners can improve their relationship with their dog and subsequently their behaviour if they make a valid effort to understand their dogs unique emotional makeup.
It’s certainly no heinous crime to be anthropomorphic, even the very best dog trainers are guilty at some point or another. But it can lead to big problems if little or no effort is made to better understand our canine friends.
So, are you guilty? We'd love to hear your stories!