It is time we talk about the elephant in the room. We all do it, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. We will never do better at it if we do not confront the problem head on! I need everybody to repeat after me, dogs are animals and not people. Now that we have addressed the problem we can go ahead and move past it.
When you treat an animal like a person, that is a common name that nobody can say correctly, you’re anthropomorphizing. This is not strictly for animals, but really anything that is not human, It’s just more often attributed to animals. Do not feel bad, but most importantly do not read this and say “But I don’t do that”. Everyone does it and that is okay, until it is not. We are addressing this right now because in these blogs, specifically the ones that I, Lindsay, write, we are going to talk about training, animal behaviors, and maybe even some funny anecdotal stories when I don’t feel like being serious.
Please do not get me wrong I am not saying dogs are dumb, they are not! They have the general intelligence of a two-and-a-half-year-old. Which is pretty darn smart. People want to put emotions and abilities unto dogs that far exceed what they can grasp. Dogs do have a wide range of emotions for being animals they feel joy, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, and of course love but that is about it. If you would not expect a two-and-a-half-year-old to grasp something, then please do not expect your dog to. Your two-and-a-half-year-old is not going to be mad at you for a week because you left them with grandma. Your two-and-a-half-year-old would never remember if you left them for five hours alone (please do not do that, Child Protective Services is a thing). Your two-and-a-half-year-old does not grasp complex emotions neither does your dog. There have been studies that have shown that dogs can understand up to 250 words (at this point this is already 355 words. On average we speak 7,000 a day). Do not over think things when you are talking to your pet. For comparison a cat can only understand 25 to 35 words, that does not mean dogs are smarter than cats. You would never judge a Dolphins intelligence by its ability to ride a bike (thanks Einstein for a similar quote). Therefore, we say to do short commands. That is why most trainers do not use the word down to tell a dog to get off something. Down is to Lay down and off is to get down. 2-year old would be confused by the same exact concept. Be realistic and be aware of what you are expecting from your dog. Your dog does not know how to hold a grudge. However, if they’ve learned that somebody in a hat beats them, they cannot identify that all people in hats aren’t the same.
IT IS SCIENCE!
So when we talk about anthropomorphizing dogs this is a huge problem because we love them like family and we tend to treat them like family but, what we don’t understand or we don’t pay attention to is they don’t have the same brain setup as we do. You love a two-year-old but you wouldn’t expect them to have the same grasps of concepts as a ten year old. You just must treat a dog within their abilities to comprehend. Unlike rodents’, dogs have gyri and sulci in their brain. WHAT IN GODS (Or whatever deity you happen to believe in or don’t) NAME IS THAT?! those are actually the names of the folds in our brains that make our brains look like giant … walnuts (I have no idea what you guys thought I was going to say). The more of the gyri that you have is the more complex emotions and thoughts you have. Our brains wrinkle up like that because we can house all this information and all this knowledge. It’s one of the ways we have learned how to gauge intelligence in animals the bigger the brain and the more wrinkles the more intelligent or the more ability they have to have intelligence (as we know some people do not utilize this). So, when I say do not anthropomorphize dogs, I am literally saying do not assume your dog can understand things or they can grasp concepts just because you can. It is especially important we go over what this is so when I use the proper term for it moving forward, we all know what it is. I waited until the end to put this below I have included pictures of a human brain a dog brain and just to show you that not everybody has wrinkles, a koala brain (they are dumb, I am not being mean it is a fact).
The big picture on the left is a dog brain, top right is a koala and the bottom right is a human brain:
Dogs have very impressive brains, especially in the animal Kingdom. That is why they’re considered one of the most intellectual animals on the planet. Always in the top ten, usually between whales and octopus, yep those 8 legged invertebrates are on the list! That doesn’t mean that they can hang with your reasoning skills or your sense of compassion though. When we assume that dogs can reason and comprehend at our levels and we give them those types of abilities we are only doing a disservice to them. Imagine your dog expecting you to smell out a lost child or an eighth of cocaine. We are not built for it, we only have 6 million olfactory receptors whereas dogs have 600 million (yep, I am Dyslexic, but I did not screw that up). Your dog is never going to feel guilt. “WHaT?!! But Lindsay, my dog Phil feels so guilty when I yell at him?!?!?” Nope, I hate to tell you Phil is just feeling fear and or sadness. Dogs do not have guilt. Anthropomorphizing comes into a play a lot in the puppy days and in the last days. So just take a breath and remember your dog probably does not understand and show them the acceptance they show us.