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February 12, 2021

Anthropomorphizing your dog


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True Communication with Your Dogs

I had just finished working with a Kick Start Client and was mumbling words of encouragement and appreciation for his hard work when his owner dropped a big surprise on me. Her dog had previously been signed up with another trainer for a board and train before she switched to me a few days before he was set to leave. Before I let my ego go mega wattage, I had to know what I did to warrant such a compliment.

Apparently, the other dog trainer told her she couldn't talk to her dog. Now, I can understand a trainer having reservations about setting up a Skype session between an owner and their dog during a board and train, but alas, this trainer was saying that she could not speak to her dog because she was anthropomorphizing him. For the uninitiated, anthropomorphism is basically assigning human characteristics, emotions, and behaviors to animals (think Winnie the Pooh or the Lion King). In essence, the trainer was telling her that she could only communicate information (like sit, down, heel, etc) and nothing else.

 

As pet owners, we are constantly searching for a way to communicate with our animals. Communication is important, and it's a cornerstone of my training program. Not only am I communicating a vocabulary to the dog, but I'm also using body language and tone of voice to express emotions. I'm not talking about screaming or yelling at my dog, I rarely do that in seriousness (in play most certainly), but I will chastise them or drop a sarcastic line or two if they have irritated me.

The dog is likewise communicating back to me a whole plethora of information. It's a 2 way street of information volleying back and forth between the owner and the dog in any situation. Besides, dogs are not robots. Even the most novice dog owner can tell what their dog is feeling at least 50% of the time. So, even though my dogs probably don't understand the babble of words that come out of my mouth, they definitely understand the tone, the feeling behind my random or direct words, and my body language. Likewise, my personal dogs use body language to indicate their desires and needs. All animals have emotions that are as prismatic as a human.

 
Personally, my dogs think I have the most amazing singing voice (I have been assured by my friends that I don't), they communicate to me when they want to work, play, go outside, eat, appreciate my awe at their big stretches, and point out what spots need to be scratched, It's a partnership, not a dictatorship.