Placing Human Emotions On Dogs

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Postby Purple » May 31st, 2006, 9:10 pm

http://www.thepetprofessor.com/articles ... aspx?id=92

Have you ever heard someone say or perhaps you’ve caught yourself saying, “My dog knows he did wrong”, or how about this, “My dog knows he’s guilty”, or better yet “My dog did that just to spite me because he’s mad at me.” I’m here to tell ya that dogs don’t think like that. What we’re doing is placing human emotions on our dogs to explain their behavior. Dogs respond in the moment to their physical surroundings, available resources, and social pressures. They don’t sit there and think, “you know, I didn’t like it when Dad/Mom yelled at me earlier today so I’m going to rip out their cable line attached to the house and I’m going to do it when they least expect it. I’ll show them!” Dogs just don’t think like that. Although we all have very smart dogs, they don’t sit there and think out plans of revenge.

What’s really happening is dogs are opportunists looking for opportunities to take, possess, and/or guard resources. In the above example with the cable wire, it’s much simpler behavior that’s being expressed than an outrageous act of revenge. The dog has too much unsupervised time outside with fun toys available for him to amuse himself with. Trust me, I know this personally. I looked out the window one day to find my young German Shepherd ripping out my professional grade landscape edging. I’m here to tell ya, my dog Zena lives a pampered dog’s life with plenty of food, exercise, and massages. There isn’t anything that she could possibly be upset about with me. In fact, she adores me so much I sometimes question if she knows she’s a dog. But lets stick to one topic for discussion here.

In a dog’s mind, Zena found the largest tug toy there is, 20 feet of edging material. And, better yet this toy was hidden treasure since it was partly buried in the ground. What an adventure it must’ve been for her. It reminded me of the time when my brother and I were young kids digging a hole to visit China. Jimmy, as I called him back then, was looking down into our huge hole when I raised the shovel to take out another load of dirt. We were positive China would soon appear. Unfortunately, the shovel connected with the bridge of my brother’s nose. To this day, he still reminds me of having scarred him since boyhood. I just wish he would understand that at age 5, I didn’t know one should first go to Engineering school prior to constructing a tunnel. I’m happy to report though, while he may not have forgotten that tragic expedition experience, he has since forgiven me. Thank you Jim.

But let’s go back to Zena. She was expressing the zest for life and adventure as my brother and I had in our earlier days. She was having the time of her life and I couldn’t help but marvel at her commitment to remove that toy from the ground. She was tugging with all her might on one end of the edging material having successfully exposed 15 feet of it. With another tug or two, she certainly would remove the remaining 5 feet still buried in the ground. If I hadn’t spent so much time and sweat installing that “tug toy”, I think I would have found myself cheering her on. But instead, it really wasn’t that funny when I thought about the work it would take to replace what she had removed.

Okay so what did I do? Well I certainly didn’t replace that edging where she could perform another search and destroy mission time and time again. My mistake was failing to anticipate her commitment and resolve to amuse herself in my absence. And, while the edging material was there prior to her coming into my life, I couldn’t expect her to make this extirpation. That would be placing a human emotion on her. Instead, I used the edging material in another part of my landscape that isn’t accessible to her and I purchased a large jolly ball (a tough but still flexible rubber ball). She loves to pounce on that ball, carry it around and throw it just so she can go chase it again. And, that one ball which seemed expensive at the time (approximately $24.00) was a drop in the bucket. It certainly saved me much more money, sweat and tears from having other landscape objects destroyed.

Zena was being a dog operating in the moment, which is one of the reasons I love her so much. In a world that we find ourselves pondering the motive behind another person’s behavior towards us; it’s reassuring to know my dog is perfect at being a dog. Instead of blaming her for finding a truly wonderful tug toy, I found her a new appropriate toy to occupy her time and energy.

So the next time you find yourself considering your dog’s unacceptable behavior as a well planned out and executed act of revenge consider the following question. When my dog is being “good”, did he/she sit there and think “you know its my owner’s birthday tomorrow, so I am going to be extra nice because I love them so and this is what they would want me to do?” I’m sorry to inform you they don’t have this forethought either. Instead, they are fun loving opportunists thinking and acting in the moment and I hope this helps to reformat the way we unfairly place human emotions on dogs.

Article submitted by: © Michael Burkey
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Postby Jenn » May 31st, 2006, 9:26 pm

Hogwash!! Pure BS! There is no doubt in my mind, that my dogs have the same human emotions. That is the dumbest thing, I've ever read!




;) Joking! Good article!
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » May 31st, 2006, 9:38 pm

Have you all ever read "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson? It kinda covers the same thing. Completely changed the way I think about training!!!
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby Romanwild » May 31st, 2006, 9:42 pm

Dreyfus and Diamond both think that was a good article. :D
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Postby concreterose » May 31st, 2006, 9:45 pm

I think a lot of dog owners need to read this. It bugs me when people treat dogs like children (as far as humanizing their behavior).
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Postby mnp13 » May 31st, 2006, 10:08 pm

I can't say that I fully agree. I have yelled at Ruby before, and then she has eaten a shoe on me in return. There was no lack of toys around (not that she plays with them) and the shoes had been in the same place for about a week so it wasn't like they were new or fun. That's not the best example, but I can't think of a better one at the moment.

His example of the landscape edging is a good one... and is an excellent example of destruction for the fun of it.

I also strongly disagree with the idea that dogs don't know when they have done something wrong. I've walked into a room and Ruby hits the floor and slinks away to hide. And sometimes I can't even figure out what she did, or I'll find it an hour later.

And Connor's Jolly Ball lasted under 10 minutes.
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Postby Malli » June 1st, 2006, 3:03 am

I don't fully agree either.

My parents dog TELLS them when they come home and she's done something wrong. She slinks around and acts all sucky and skittish, they told me that they'll actually look around the house now when she acts that way.

I don't think the emotions are felt the same way as we have ours, obviously.

In Oscar I've seen anger, fear, defeat, happiness, and boredom.
And thats pretty much all you'd see in a child of 2 or 3.

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Postby Favorite Kitty » June 1st, 2006, 9:08 am

For a while I disagreed with an article like this, also. I know my dogs have given me a "guilty" look when I have walked into a room but didnt catch them doing anything wrong. When I have found out what they did do, it was something that they have done before.

For example, if Haven chewed on my shoe while I was out of the room he got reprimanded for it. He did it at another time, he got reprimanded. When he did it a third time while I was out of the room he was able to connect him chewing on something with me reprimanding him. I think he is connecting the guilty look with what he did, not what he chewed on. Does this make sense?? I dont think it is a guilty look they are giving us but a "I know I'm gonna get it" look.
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Postby mnp13 » June 1st, 2006, 10:15 am

Favorite Kitty wrote:I dont think it is a guilty look they are giving us but a "I know I'm gonna get it" look.

Either way, that would indicate that the dog knows that he did something wrong - whether you describe that as "guilt" or not.
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Postby Romanwild » June 1st, 2006, 12:45 pm

They may have known they did something wrong but your punishment doesn't come close to the pleasure they receive from doing the wrong thing. Guilt is an emotion I don't beleive dogs can emote.
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Postby katiek0417 » June 2nd, 2006, 6:40 am

Malli wrote:I don't fully agree either.

My parents dog TELLS them when they come home and she's done something wrong. She slinks around and acts all sucky and skittish, they told me that they'll actually look around the house now when she acts that way.

I don't think the emotions are felt the same way as we have ours, obviously.

In Oscar I've seen anger, fear, defeat, happiness, and boredom.
And thats pretty much all you'd see in a child of 2 or 3.

Malli


One of my trainers has 8 German Shepherds...if he comes home and only 7 meet him at the door, he knows the ONE that isn't there has done something wrong....he's right 100% of the time...
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Postby mnp13 » June 2nd, 2006, 9:35 am

holy crap....

if he comes home and none meet him at the door its because there are 8 dead dogs in the other room because of a dog fight.

Sorry, I know he's a good trainer, but that is just insane!!
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Postby katiek0417 » June 2nd, 2006, 10:24 am

mnp13 wrote:holy crap....

if he comes home and none meet him at the door its because there are 8 dead dogs in the other room because of a dog fight.

Sorry, I know he's a good trainer, but that is just insane!!


The dogs are only out together when there is someone home. don't jump to conclusions. As "Daddy" the dogs still meet him at the door...all he has to do is ask a family member what "so and so" did if that one isn't at the door to meet him....he usually finds the missing dog in the corner....

When no one is there, the dogs are tethered in the garage (the garage has been turned into a "kennel" but he doesn't use kennels...he tethers them OUT of arms (or paws) reach of each other...the only one that is out is his second child (the alpha)....

As I said, don't jump to conclusions....he is an excellent trainer....he has 8 GSDs who can all be off leash walking at a heel with him....I don't know many people like that....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby mnp13 » June 2nd, 2006, 11:07 am

I wasn't bashing him, the way I read your post it sounded like they were left out. Unfortunatley, many people think it's ok to do that... even well respected trainers.
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Postby hoagiesmomma » June 2nd, 2006, 11:42 am

ahahahaha

the author in one breath says that dogs don't "think" like that...in reference to them being capable of emotion...

and in the next says that his dog loves, adores and cherishes him to the point that she forgets she's a dog.

what a cracker.
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Postby msvette2u » June 2nd, 2006, 12:34 pm

also strongly disagree with the idea that dogs don't know when they have done something wrong. I've walked into a room and Ruby hits the floor and slinks away to hide. And sometimes I can't even figure out what she did, or I'll find it an hour later.

The day Copper got into the dog food, he'd never done it before yet he was acting all WEIRD like he HAD done something wrong. I couldn't figure out why he was slinking around like he was waiting for the ball to drop.
It was only after I saw how bloated he was that I began to look around and saw the lid off the dog food. Yet he somehow knew he'd "been bad". Michelle, I've had dogs, too, take it out on something of mine, and a cat used to ALL the time. But then again, we KNOW cats are evil. ;)
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Postby mnp13 » June 2nd, 2006, 12:52 pm

I know more than one person with a vindictive cat. Her boyfriend yells at the cat and the cat takes a dump on him while he's sleeping or pees on his pillow. It has happened more than once, and ONLY after he yells at the cat for something.

I'm sorry, but that is NOT just a "bored cat"
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Postby msvette2u » June 2nd, 2006, 1:29 pm

I catch our cats looking at us from time to time with a look that can only mean "If I was bigger I think I'd kill you..."
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Postby Hoyden » June 2nd, 2006, 1:45 pm

Mark will swear up and down that my previous dog, Rhianna would take revenge on his belongings when I was mad at him.

He always left his work boots, safety glasses and ball cap in the SAME spot. The dogs knew these were off limits. After an arguement, Rhianna ate the hat. Ignored the boots, glasses and new hat for WEEKS. We had another arguement, she ate his boots.

Anytime Mark pushed me to the point I was going to snap, Rhianna destroyed something of his. Without Fail.

Petey acts guilty when he KNOWS he did something bad and we find it sooner or later. He even puts himself in the time out corner even though I have never put him there, it's the Gremlin's time out corner.

Petey is also a tattle tale. He will come and get one of us if the Gremlin or Birdie are doing something that he knows they're not supposed to do. He's come to get me and I've found the Gremlin on the counters getting into cookies or snacks or the Gremlin and Birdie raiding the refridgerator.
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Postby Vanessa » June 2nd, 2006, 2:25 pm

Before i started kennelling Ozzy all the time when i'm not home he would hide if he had done something wrong. When he was still small enough to get under the bed he would be under there if he had chewed something.
My aunt has a cat that pooed in her husband's shoes (both of them) once when he wasn't paying attention to the cat and the cat wanted to be played with. This is the most spoiled cat in the world.
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