Here at thebark.com we welcome and celebrate new voices – young writers committed to dogs and their wellbeing. In this essay, 19 year old Vedika Shah undoubtedly fulfills both of these criteria, and we are pleased to make her work available to our readers.
Many dog lovers around the world think that “loving” a dog means treating the dog like a person – sometimes to the extent that they expect their dogs to be rational and behave like a human would do. Our unconscious desire to project human-like demands, aspirations, desires and needs onto dogs is not only unfair and disrespectful to the dog, but can also pose a threat to the dog’s mental and physical health.
As humans, we tend to anthropomorphize dogs to our own satisfaction. Seeing and understanding them through a human lens is much easier than learning how to communicate. I’ve made myself guilty, and often still am. For example, I expect my dogs to look at the camera to take pictures and pretend they’d like to click their pictures. Norwegian dog expert Turid Rugass noted that her dog Saga made a calming gesture while taking the picture – she turned her head to the side – possibly because she found the camera a bit scary. What I consider a good thing may not be so good from my dogs point of view.
Get the barge in your inbox!
Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date.
Anthropomorphism exists at different levels in different households, but it’s time to take a step back and see why we are doing it and what it is doing to our dogs. Dogs can be our best friends, but they can’t think and act like humans, and we have to accept that. Most of the time, we don’t understand dog behavior and communication. therefore we anthropomorphize.
Do you think your dog likes to wear clothes? For him, a jacket or sweater is uncomfortable and stressful because it makes him unable to communicate with the outside world. Because dogs communicate through their bodies, putting a piece of clothing on your dog is similar to putting a strip of tape over your mouth.
Dressing dogs is just one of the many ways we anthropomorphize them. While grooming is good for your dog, extending it to manicure, dyeing, and finishing is not possible. Likewise, it’s okay to have a birthday party for your dog, but expecting him to blow out the candles on his cake and respond “happily” is not.
We need to recognize where to draw the line when it comes to anthropomorphism. Whether the pet industry or the cinema are to blame, our dogs are unconsciously anthropomorphized in many ways and behavior problems can arise. Our dogs are no substitutes for babies and if they are treated as if they are frequent it will exacerbate their stress, aggression and anxiety. Because we don’t realize we’re doing it, we keep doing it without thinking about the consequences of our behavior.
Another anthropomorphic incident I witnessed was with my friend’s dog, Babu. Now Babu is a happy Indian pariah dog when his owners are around. You love him down to the smallest detail and never miss the opportunity to shower him with affection. He has no rules or limits, eats food from the table, is trained very little and is constantly overwhelmed. But this cheerful dog turns into a nervous and shy dog when its owners are not around. Why? Another indirect result of anthropomorphism.
Showing dogs well-deserved love and affection is one thing; Not setting rules and limits for them is another matter. They were, after all, bred to work with people. Even though a lot has changed, dogs retain their work characteristics. One day when Babu’s owner left him alone for two hours, he channeled all his fear and fear onto himself and the house.
When we try to understand dogs through human feelings of guilt, anger, jealousy, regret, etc., we risk misunderstanding what our dogs are trying to tell us and this can lead to behavioral problems. Understanding and making decisions for our dogs based on a human perception of right and wrong drowns out the value of their existence in our lives. To build healthy bonds and strengthen existing relationships, we need to listen to what our dogs are trying to tell us and look at life from their point of view.
For dogs, having fun means playing, hiking, running, guarding, swimming, eating, resting and loving you. These are the things that make you wake up every day. So let’s stop anthropomorphism and understand the way our furry, four-legged best friends understand the world.