Anthropomorphism, or representing a
canine as having human form or traits, is a balancing act for those who are
professionally involved in any canine field, especially researchers and
behaviorists. What is problematic with anthropomorphic attributes becomes a
credibility issue between peers. However, when dealing with the “general
public”, the average dog owner, the lines of distinction become blurred.
To the well informed dog owner, many
self train their dog, and are usually involved in some sort of venue or
activity regularly, anthropomorphic reasoning is absurd. However, to the
majority of “average” dog owners, there is good cause to represent anthropomorphic
views. The spectrum of knowledge of canine behaviors and of canines themselves
is extreme. On one end is the view it is just a dog, that IT can be treated
without any forethought. Note the term “IT”, because to these owners, a dog is
just that, an object void of feelings, any type of emotions, and sentience.
These owners think hitting or beating a dog for non-conformity is acceptable.
That the dog is an “empty shell” without sensations of pain and incapable of
having fear. These owners are the types who will leave a dog in a vehicle for
extended hours without forethought of consequences. On the other end is the
view the dog is a small child and has to be “pampered” and taken care of as if
the dog was unable to function on his own. These owners usually dress the dogs
in human clothing and treat the dog like their surrogate children. Here,
representing anthropomorphic views is dangerous to these type of owners because
they already attribute human qualities in excess. Also there is another danger,
which is respect - will address this later on). Then the vast majority of
general public owners fall somewhere between these extremes and at varying
Teaching anthropomorphism has
advantages to the vast majority of general public owners who generally have
misconceptions of what a canine is, and how to adequately care for, treat,
train, and interact with a dog
Assigning human qualities and traits
allow an understanding to these owners that the dog has emotions, feelings, and
can be adversely affected and effected by how treated and cared for. Simply,
anthropomorphic reasoning allows a standardized understanding to build a
foundation of knowledge. However when teaching this controversial view, there
are inherent problems. In individual class settings or in private classes, the
trainer has total control. But in open classes where there are owners across
the knowledge spectrum and understanding spectrum, this is where a balancing
act starts. Promoting anthropomorphic views can become misleading, especially
where the owner already attributes too much human characteristics to a dog.
Aforementioned was a danger of respect.
Not in the sense towards the dog itself but to the dog as a species.
This danger can occur with any owner
with any understanding or knowledge base. What owners do not know how to do or
understand is to respect the species. Thoughts of “being mean” towards the dog
or “being cruel” towards the dog develop unrealistic expectations. And this
misunderstanding on canines as a species is often where problems start to
fester. Consider the owner who leaves open feeding as reality, where food is
left continually for a dog to gain access or the owner who is afraid to crate
or kennel or separate a dog because they “think” it is cruel or being mean
towards the dog. Instead of understanding the true nature of a breed and
species, these owners become obsessed with how they think they should treat a
dog instead of how to actually treat a dog.
So although there are advantages of
teaching anthropomorphic views, especially to the heavy handed type of owner,
or the neglectful type owner, there are inherent risks of developing a
disassociation of the true nature and understanding of what a canine really is
as a species. So is anthropomorphism a blessing or a curse…It Depends.
Gracie and I will begin our animal assisted therapy volunteer program at UCI Medical Center on Jan. 5 2011.
We want to thank you for the training that we both received and the information on how to proceed with the registration/evaluation process for therapy dogs.
I called you in April 2010 to inquire about training Gracie the basic commands needed for pet therapy work.
We followed your training techniques step by step. In August 2010, we passed our test for the Delta Society Pet Partners program.
Now, we have been accepted for the UCI Tails program where we will be able to visit people who are "in the hospital".
If you ever need a referral, please don't hesitate to call.
The training for doing therapy dog work was fun. Now the real fun is about to begin!
Jerry Newman & Gracie
A Christmas Dog
about getting a shelter dog for a Christmas present? Although altruistic and
good intentions, there can be associated problems to consider. However, these
problems can be circumvented. Dogs, even within the same breed are unique with
their own personalities, traits, and characteristics. You know someone that has
a breed X dog. However another dog X may behave somewhat differently. Selecting
a dog or puppy on site without the recipient of the gift present loses the
ability to “match” personalities of dog and new owner.
person receiving the gift (dog or puppy) might not be suited for that
particular dog. In stead of “picking randomly” a dog for someone, it is better
to take that person with you to the shelter to best match dog and new owner. Or
the intended recipient may not be totally enthralled about receiving a dog or a
particular breed or type. Or a dog selected (breed type) may not be suited for
the lifestyle of that person or family.
concern is dogs are creatures of habit. They thrive on routine. They like
consistency. This is why and how they develop “security”. A secure dog will not
have “behavioral problems” like an insecure dog.
a dog during the holidays can make adjustment to the “new life” much harder for
the dog. Consider that the dog is now in a new environment, new sights, smells,
sounds, and people. This alone is confusing enough. The dog has to “adjust” to
the new situation. Now consider during the holidays, the human routine is
drastically altered and different from “normal circumstances”; that there is
more commotion and daily routines are changed. Then there are usually more guests
and people visiting than normal. This makes the dog’s adjustment harder. What
is problematic is after the holidays. The routine goes ‘back to normal’. Now
the dog is confused and feels he has no control because everything is not as
expected or what he is used too. Confusion leads to insecurity. Now the dog has
to re-adjust to living in his new home and has more anxiety than originally had
when first arriving at the new home.
Instead of selecting a “surprise gift” dog or puppy for someone as a Christmas
gift, you can give that person a “gift certificate” you made stating they will
be getting a dog or puppy for a present after Christmas. And that they will get
to pick and choose that dog or puppy.
things to consider when getting a dog for someone as a Christmas present.
The person’s lifestyle. Is that person able to care for a dog and be willing
and able to be there for the dog.
Is the breed they select or mixed breed fitting for them or their lifestyle or
family situation. A herding dog might not be the best choice with small
children or an active retriever for someone who is sedimentary.
Is the dog’s traits and characteristics acceptable to the new owner. Are they
prepared to deal with behavioral problems if they occur, such as chewing
objects or furniture, submissive urination, or other “unwanted behaviors” if
What are the recipient’s expectations of a dog. Are they really realistic. Do they
know what is involved with ownership.
dog gifted that becomes a burden or unwanted is often subjected to isolation,
confinement, or re-sheltered
makes it difficult for the dog to re-adjust if re-sheltered, and to accept
another “new home” later on. With some forethought and preparation, giving
someone a Christmas gift of a dog or puppy can be a memorial, happy, and joyful
Raising K9 would like to give a "Shout Out" to Gracie, Jerry & Kim Newman on Gracie's passing of the Delta Society's Therapy Dog Evaluation! Gracie is a Raising K9 stellar student and worked very hard during her training with us to accomplish this. Gracie's parents also worked very hard with a sincere dedication to this wonderful program. Even better? Gracie is one of the youngest dogs to pass the evaluation. She just turned one year old! Congratulations Gracie, Jerry & Kim Newman!