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Don’t Get Succumb to the Canine Identity Crisis
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Saturday, April 23, 2022
 

BY FRAN JEWELL

Just how does a dog lose her identity enough to call it a crisis?  The big word to describe this crisis is anthropomorphism or giving human characteristics to a dog.

The media and pet suppliers, the dog training community and dog care specialists have begun to refer to dogs as “fur babies” or “fur children.”  Not a day goes by that we don’t see dogs in clothes that make them look like little children.  They wear dresses and jackets and sprot dyed hair and tails, too!

Recently, I saw a Weimaraner on Facebook with painted toenails and a bracelet on her leg.  Now, a Weimeraner is a hunting dog with huge energy and the need to run and hunt.  In order to paint her nails, her guardians had allowed the nails to grow especially long.

As a result, this dog will end up with health issues with her feet and structure, especially her spine, which could cause her pain the rest of her life and render her unable to run.  For what purpose?  So her guardian can make her look like a human princess?!!!

Anthropomorphism is incredibly dangerous, not only to a dog’s physical health, but also its mental health as a dog. 

Many of the aggression and severe separation anxiety cases I work with are a result of dogs being treated like “fur babies” or beings that have feelings like people without any rules or structure.  I love my dogs as much if not more than anyone on the planet, but I love them enough to respect that they are dogs and of a different species.  I LOVE that they are dogs, NOT humans. 

I am not here to argue that dogs don’t have feelings.  They absolutely do. However, they do not have feelings the way that we humans do and they do not respond the way we humans do to certain situations.

So, how do we honor our dogs?  First, we do some research to find out what our dog was bred to do.  Even mixed breed dogs have an innate or genetic purpose.

Humans originally selected wolves that were the most social and trainable in order to help primitive man with living.  Over time, humans domesticated those wolves into dogs.  Dogs were originally intended to help herd livestock, hunt to help humans find food, pull carts, protect families, kill vermin in the barn and yes, even be our companions.

But dogs did not lose their day jobs to sit at home and sleep on the back of the sofa.  Our first job should be to understand the ancestry of our dogs, which will help us to understand who they are today. 

In many ways, dogs have taken the place of human companions.  Nowadays, our families may live on the other side of the country instead of across town.  Even in our high-rise apartments many of us don’t  know our neighbors.   We look for those warm fuzzy dogs to comfort our loneliness, and we put enormous pressure on our beloved dog to be only a companion instead of a dog intended to work to help people.

How many times have you heard that a dog loves to obey?   What we humans perceive as work is usually FUN for our dog and helps it maintain a healthy body and mind.  Dogs LOVE direction and are mentally and physically healthier when they are given direction.  Honor your dog for who she is and you will see amazing things in your relationship with her!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fran Jewell is Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and on the board of directors of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors. She has been training dogs for 35 years and has been a full-time instructor for Positive Puppy Dog Training LLC for 25 years. Her has trained her own dogs for Search and Rescue, Pet Therapy, Competitive Obedience and Agility and Tracking. 

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