We cherish our pets, often giving them human attributes they don’t truly possess. The proper term for giving any non-human, human characteristics is ‘anthropomorphism’. Whew! That’s a mouthful! But its meaning is simple.
I have heard people say, “My dog is jealous”, when, in fact, jealousy is an emotion common only to humans. The dog described is exhibiting survival instincts, indicated by its reaction when the human shows favor to another dog.
Another strictly-human emotion is embarrassment or shame. An animal cannot feel shame—that is what makes a human being, human. If a dog felt embarrassment or shame it would not run around naked or ‘potty’ in public!
There is nothing wrong with treating your dog like part of the family. However, you are not doing him a favor by ‘making him human’. Ideally, dogs need to be cared for—sheltered, fed, given water, shown affection. If left to their own devices, most dogs can survive with minimal human interaction if they are given the basics. That doesn’t make them well-rounded or mentally stable, just alive.
If you allow yourself to anthropomorphize your pets ask yourself if you are making them ‘too human’. After all, a dog is a dog, and that’s a wonderful thing to be!
By the way, I will be a guest speaker on Thursday evening at 6:30 on February 21st, at the Gloucester City Library. The topic will be: Raising Your Dog Safely, Cheaply, Wisely. Hope to see you there!
Wado udohiyu (thank you very much in the Cherokee language)
Owner, Brother of the Wolf, LLC