Do not attribute our human traits to dogs

MAN’S BEST FRIEND: But a dog is not a fur-clad human being.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM is the word that is used when we believe dogs have the same feelings and emotions as humans and that they understand our language.

A mistaken belief, of course. Dogs are not small, fur-clad human beings. They are canines. True, they are man’s best friend because their natural instincts and hierarchical society blend into our own, and they show loyalty and devotion to the hand that feeds them. This bonding between man and dog happened thousands of years ago when both man and wolf lived similar nomadic lives as hunters roaming the land.

The dog’s adaptation to our way of life was accelerated by man using selective breeding to develop the most desirable features, first to work for us and then as pets.

There remain, of course, fundamental differences between us and our dogs: dogs live totally in the present moment. They do not worry about the past nor dream about the future. They are not endowed with imagination or feel grief, hate, jealousy or greed.

They do have a high sensory ability which is often mistaken for a kind of sixth sense. They will understand that certain words like sit, stay, down require the right reaction if they are to be rewarded with a tit-bit or praise. They will understand whether your tone of voice and facial expressions are good or bad when you are talking to them, but they will not understand longer phrases.

We often attribute human emotions to dogs when, in fact, they are reacting instinctively. We assume our dog is happy to see us when we return home and it looks pleased and wags its tail. All it is doing is reacting in the same way a wolf puppy reacts when the pack returns from a hunt.

So please do not attribute dogs with human emotions. Try, instead, to understand their simple canine minds, which are untroubled by so many of our emotions


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