Your Dog Is Not A Human
Do you treat your dog like a little human?
I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out that the barking furry friend running around your house with four legs and a tail is indeed a dog and not a human. Many people know this, yet they still treat their dog like a human.
People dress their dogs up in all different outfits. They put hats and bows on their dogs and T-shirts, coats and even shoes.
Owners often cuddle and coddle their dogs just like a baby. They try to console their dog when they are upset and reassure them when they are afraid.
Dog owners are notorious for giving their dog’s non-verbal communication signals a human meaning.
For example, if a dog turns their head away, some owners label this as their dog being stubborn and tuning them out. Many owners say this is their dog’s way of telling them they are ashamed of what they have done if they’ve done anything at all.
Dog’s don’t know what shame is or have the ability to understand “shame.” This head turn away is called an appeasement behavior. An appeasement behavior is a form of animal behavior communication whereby the inferior (the dog turning their head away) signals to the superior (the owner scolding their dog) that they mean no harm and that they wish for the superior to calm down.
This does not mean your dog is tuning you out. The head turn is the same signal a more submissive dog would give to a pushy or overly excited dog. This behavior is to try and get them to back off or calm down.
Anytime a dog feels stressed they give clear signals to indicate that they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and in need of a break. The problem is we misunderstand their signals or misinterpret their signals. We label dog signals the same way we would a human’s signals.
Humans label the dogs below as tired, thirsty, and itchy.
What is actually going on; These are actual signals our dog gives us to indicate they are stressed and anxious. Our dogs try to release the anxiety they are experiencing through these behaviors.
Humans need to learn their dog’s body language to better help them cope, train, and accommodate their dog’s needs.
Humans also need to know that their dog’s brain doesn’t work the same way as ours.
If you dress your dog up, you are covering up their body, making it difficult for them to communicate to other dogs how they are feeling. This lack of clear communication can lead to a fight among a group of dogs.
If you cuddle your dog when they are afraid of something, you are reinforcing their fears. Picking your dog up or petting your dog when they are afraid of the thunder or fireworks only reinforces their fear. Your actions never teach them how to think of those scary things as positives.
Anthropomorphism means giving human characteristics to animals. It is essential to treat your dog like a dog. Do not treat your dog like a human. Else you could be reinforcing the wrong behaviors. Misinterpreting what they are saying and what they need most.
Your dog’s brain does not comprehend or understand the same way our human brain does.
What have you seen other dog owners do to treat their dog like a little human?
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.