Table of Contents
- Sleeping Arrangements
- Eating Habits
- Pets that Dress Like People
- Humanizing - It is Nothing New
- The Psychology of the Matter
- The Dog Pack
- Are you Doing Your Dog an Injustice?
Just because your dog sleeps in the bed with you, eats at the table with you, and has a full wardrobe doesn’t mean you’re humanizing your dog. Or...does it?
Maybe you’ve come to grips with the fact that you are guilty as charged. You admit that you do indeed treat your dog like a human.
What on earth could be wrong with that? He makes your world go around and all you do is return the favor by showing how much he means to you.
You are not alone. A recent study showed that 83% of dog owners refer to themselves as their dog’s “mommy” or “daddy”. And, of course, they endearingly call their furry one their “baby”.
This alone isn’t a bad thing. But there are a number of other pet parenting dog humanizing habits that may put their dogs in a tailspin.
Here’s a look at some of the ways you may be humanizing your dog and the problems they may entail:
Does Your Dog Sleep With You?
It is estimated that 42% of all pet parents allow their dogs to sleep with them in their beds. Some even say the reverse is true.
Their dog allows them to sleep with him in his bed, meaning, of course, the dog claims their bed as his own. And, that’s the problem!
Most dog lovers adore snuggling up with our pooches. They keep us from being lonely. They keep us warm. And, they keep us safe.
In a recent article where eighty-six burglars were interviewed, the majority declared they were detoured by the barking of a dog, especially the loud bark of a big dog.
But...couldn’t that same bark come from...the dog in his dog bed, safely nestled near the human’s bed?
When it comes to dogs sleeping with their parent or parents, there are pros and cons. Let’s weigh it all out:
When the lights go out and it’s time for bed, it can get lonely if no one is there beside you. Many single people opt for having a dog crawl into bed with them rather than a partner.
Life without a love relationship can be much more doable when you have a dog by your side...especially if it’s curled up beside you all night long. Dogs are known to raise serotonin levels and reduce stress and anxiety.
The unconditional love of a warm pooch beside you is enough to have anyone sawing some good zzz’s.
Dogs are protectors by nature. When they hear, see, or sense something is amiss, they sound the alarm by way of barking.
Barking alone can send an intruder running the other direction. Should the intruder enter anyway, guard dog tendencies kick in for many breeds.
Just knowing your furry friend has a built-in security system is comforting but when he’s laying right beside you or is in the other room in bed with your child, it’s even more assuring.
When it’s cold outside (and inside too), snuggling up to your dog can actually warm you up.
While humans keep an average body temperature of 98.6 degrees, dogs range from 100 to 102.5.
Plus, when they curl up beside you, their body heats up even more because they conserve heat, an instinct their brains hardwired centuries ago.
Dogs lower our blood pressure, lift depression, and just the touch of one is good medicine for the soul.
Studies have proven that people with dogs tend to live longer due to the physical and mental health benefits they provide.
Curling up with your fur-baby at night has its health perks just as it does during the daytime and possibly even more so.
When you first bring your dog home, it is recommended by dog experts to walk in the door first, then invite him in. When taking him on a walk, it is wise to lead the way and not to allow him to take charge.
Dogs work off pack mentality and in a pack, there is always a leader. The leader needs to be you, his pet parent. You will establish the rules of the house and you will be the one to make sure they are followed.
In turn, you do your part by tending to his needs by providing him with food, water, exercise, and lots and lots of love. When you allow him onto your bed, it is highly likely he will soon think of it as his bed.
If you’re lucky, he will give you just enough space to sleep in but, oftentimes, he totally hogs the bed. He thinks nothing of it because...it is his bed. Such behavior also gives him the sense of being the pack leader over you.
Just as sleeping with your dog can be good for your health, it can be bad for it too. Dogs breed bacteria and some forms can cause sickness.
Many breeds have dander which can make allergies explode, resulting in a poor night’s sleep. In addition, you can catch certain types of parasites, like worms, from dogs.
Sleeping beside him, possibly with your mouth open, well...you can leave the rest to your imagination.
Even after a nice bath, most dogs smell like...dogs. When you cuddle up to your dog all night, you are likely to smell just like he does.
Even after a shower, it’s anyone’s guess if you’ll wash all the dog smell off. Plus, your bedding will definitely smell like Fido.
It’s all part of the price you pay so it’s up to you to weigh it all out and decide if it’s worth the cost.
Does your dog kick, lick, scratch, snore, and take up more than his share of the bed? Do you find your sleep is interrupted when your furry one is sleeping in your bed?
If so, you may want to rethink your sleeping arrangements. It’s imperative to your health to hit the deep stages of sleep. Your body will not revive and heal otherwise.
It’s important for your dog to sleep well too so if one or both of you aren’t, you are not doing either of you a favor by letting him in your bed.
Accidents happen. You never know when your dog might poop, puke, or pee on the bed and if he does, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Of course, he won’t do it on purpose but just as parents of children don’t wish to have accidents happen in their beds, such is the case with pet parents.
If you are adamant about keeping Fido in your bed, dog experts suggest laying some ground rules.
Here are a few to consider:
- Your dog should wait to be invited up onto your bed. This puts the authority back in your hands and will decrease the tendency towards dominance that he naturally assumes when he has full reign of the bed.
- You should have times where you do not allow him on the bed. This further establishes the fact that it is your bed and not his.
- If your dog is interrupting your sleep or causing your allergies to act up, insisting that he stay at the foot of the bed is a good compromise. You and your dog get the benefit of him being in bed with you but without the negative effects.
Does Your Dog Eat What You Do?
Are you humanizing your dog through what you are feeding him? Giving your dog people food could be sending him to an early grave.
What is good for a dog’s diet is much different than what’s in a human diet. In fact, some food, like grapes, chocolate, and green tomatoes, can actually be fatal to him.
Weighing it All Out
Sixty-eight percent of dogs in America are overweight, according to national statistics. Much of the fault is our own.
We mean to be showing love but we are actually doing quite the opposite often times. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are You Tricking by Treating?
Treats are something all dogs love. We, as pet parents, enjoy seeing our pups get all excited over a treat so it’s easy to dole them out too often.
We bribe them to learn tricks with treats. We give them one when they go outside and do their business and give them another before bedtime. When we leave them alone, we give them a treat and another upon our return.
Treats are often laden with calories. They are intended to be occasionally given but many of us have let treating get out of hand to the point it is causing medical conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Have You Turned Your Dog Into a People-Foodie?
Plenty of dogs won’t even touch dog food and dog treats or are quite picky about them. Why? Because we as pet parents have spoiled them to the point their tastes have changed.
They are now accustomed to people food which isn’t healthy. Let’s face it, a lot of people food isn’t even healthy for people so how can it be healthy for your dog?
Preservatives, GMO’s, high fat content, additives, dyes, sugars, and chemicals are as bad for canines as they are for humans.
Do You Coax Your Dog to Eat His Own Food?
We can’t imagine eating dog food and indirectly put that on our dogs so we try to bribe them to eat it by spicing it up with people food.
Shredded cheese, scrambled hamburger meat, scraps, and cooked liver are some of the many ways we humans attempt to doctor our furry friend’s food so they’ll eat it.
The fact is that good brands of dog food are made with dogs’ nutrition in mind. They even taste good to our dogs until we mess with their taste buds. Dog experts warn that when your dog is hungry, he will eat his dog food.
We encourage obesity when we coax them to eat by adding all the human frills to it.
Do You Over Feed?
People generally eat three meals per day and some snack in between. New information suggests that people weren’t even intended to eat three square meals a day, much less the snacks.
Dogs definitely don’t need three meals every day and certainly not with snacks too, unless such a diet has been ordered by your dog’s veterinarian for a medical condition.
Feeding once a day, twice at the max, is the most your dog should be getting. Don’t let those begging eyes fool you. If you feed your dog every time you eat, you are creating a monster and are contributing to the potential for health risks too.
Is Your Dog a Fashionista?
Dressing your pet is fun to do. At times, it’s even funny, like putting him in a silly costume on Halloween. When is dressing your pet not a healthy thing for him though?
Dogs weren’t actually designed to wear clothing. Sure, a raincoat can help keep him dry and a coat or sweater can make sure he stays snuggly warm.
But...a tutu? Is it alright to dress your dog in clothes all the time just because it suits your fancy? When is enough enough?
Dog experts are quick to warn that not all canine clothing is safe. There are often times materials that can be choked on if chewed, ties that can end up around their neck that could strangle them, and buttons that might be eaten.
Plus, not all doggie outfits are comfortable. They can fit too tight and cut off his circulation. If you are going to dress your dog, make sure to do so safely and comfortably too.
Some types of dog apparel are useful. Dog booties can help keep paws from freezing. Not all dogs take well to this type of humanizing though.
If you are going to insist he dress like a human, whether for fun or for function, do be patient as he learns how to adjust and do your best to try not to laugh.
For centuries, people have had a love affair with dogs. Siberian Huskies are one of the oldest known breeds in existence. They pulled sleds and helped hunt food in the frozen tundra of Russia which often enabled their owners to survive in the harsh conditions.
The dogs were as rough and rugged as they get but within time, they were welcomed into the hearts and homes of the people. The same can be said of many breeds of dogs.
They started out in the fields and ended up on the porch. Then, they wormed their way into laps and later, into our beds.
Just a few years back, the number of babies of the furry kind in America actually began to outnumber the humankind.
Less than a decade ago, there were 38 million human babies and 43 million pet dogs. The number of fur-babies continues to grow every day.
Many people now substituting dogs for having babies. Some even have children and treat their dogs like their kids, some even treat their pets better. They talk to them like children, dress them like children, and feed them like children too.
But are they taking it too far?
Moderation is something many pet parents are not good at. Instead of occasionally treating the dog like a human, they do so constantly.
In fact, they feel bad when they treat their dog like a dog at all. Over time though, it is a dangerous situation because your dog is a dog and needs to know it’s alright to act like one.
It’s very confusing and unnatural to him and unfortunately, you’re to blame.
There are certain facts in life that cannot be changed. One is that dogs are dogs, not humans. Attempting to humanize a dog is generally frowned upon by dog psychologist and even has a name - anthropomorphism.
Anthropomorphism entails more than just dressing a dog up for a holiday or talking baby talk to him every now and again. It is the act of treating or thinking of a non-human object or being like it was a human.
It is manifest through a child believing her teddy bear has feelings, a woman talking to her garden flowers and thinking they will grow better because of it, or a pet parent explaining to his dog the activities they will be embarking on that day as if he actually understands the conversation.
Anthropomorphism can be cute and harmless. There’s really nothing wrong with telling your dog the events of the day. The complication arises, however, when the practice becomes an anxious attachment and disturbs the natural behavior of the object of affection, in our case...a dog.
If you are treating your dog like a human for your own gratification and it is taking away from his natural instinctive traits, that’s not ok, for you or for your furry friend. Although such behavior is typical of humans (because, after all, we are only human), it creates chaos and complications.
The reason behind our action is often explained by our intense love for our fur-babies and our need to express that affection. When humanization of a dog is taken to the extreme, it is abusive and selfish though.
How do we change our natural human tendency to humanize our dogs?
Here are 5 Steps to Overcoming Dog Anthropomorphism:
- Reality Check. The first step in recovery is to realize that they are not humans. That doesn’t mean we love them any less. What it does mean is that we must find appropriate ways to express our love.
- Changing Your Behavior. Once you see the nature of your wrongdoing, even though it is most likely just a human error that took place out of good intentions, it is time to change your ways. If you have been expecting your dog to love shopping like you do but have not accommodated his love for a brisk walk in the sunshine, then change what you are doing. You can take him shopping and then for a walk which will suit you both. As long as realization brings about the necessary adjustments, it is a positive thing.
- Acceptance. There is a wonderful thing that comes about when you accept your pooch for being a dog. He will sense and appreciate the fact that you are giving him the freedom to be who he is...a dog. While you learn to give him space for doing dog things, like running, digging, barking, burrowing, and sniffing out scents with his powerful sense of smell, he will blossom. Sure, you can still do some human things like take him to a concert or travel with him as long as you give him ample time to be in his element doing what he loves to do.
- Embracing Canine Qualities. How much do you know about the true nature of your dog? Have you checked into the traits the predominant breed or breeds that run through his blood include? What is it that makes your dog tick? It is a vital part of any relationship to spend time getting to know all about the other, be it a human or a dog. The more you learn about your dog as a dog, the more you’ll be able to appreciate and honor the canine characteristics that he was born with. Spend time with him on his turf and observe what he loves. Giving him more time to do his own thing and expect less conformation is the true and unselfish way to show him how much you care.
- Finding Balance. The real key to finding the ultimate co-existence with your dog is to strive to find a healthy balance that is conducive to both you and your furry friend. In any given situation, ask yourself if it is a win-win for you and for him. There is certainly no harm in talking to your dog as long as you realize he isn’t a human and may only catch a few words and phrase such as “sit”, “stay”, or “go for a walk”. Yes, indeed, he is probably very smart. Still, he is a dog. Treat him like the valued canine member of your family that he is and all will be well.
Dogs are social creatures who once lived in the wild and ran together in packs. Each pack had a rock solid instinctive infrastructure of dominance. If one of the pack members challenged the order, they were either overpowered or became the new pack leader. Wolves and many other wild animals operate under the same pack system even still.
Within the pack, there is a leader. The rest of the pack are submissive to their leader and in return, they get the benefit of the protection and companionship of being in a pack. In the wild, such animals as dogs would not last long without a team to back them up.
Dog Psychologists suggest in the general scheme of things that pet parents can mimic the natural flow of the pack with their own dog. The reason dogs and other pack animals give full respect and submission to the leader is because he alone can make or break them. He is in charge of getting the food, allowing the rest of the pack to eat after him, and assures other needs are taken care of too.
If any pack member disobeys, there is a price to be paid, depending on the severity of the action. To do differently would make all that the pack stands for crumble and be a worthless hierarchy.
The same can be said about your rules and expectations. If your dog is not lining up with your desires and demands, you must make sure that changes. It is up to you to bring about discipline, in a loving yet calm and assertive way, of course.
When he rebels, he is challenging you as the pack leader. That happens in real packs. That is why it is imperative to stand up to his defiance and to get him back on track. There must be harmony in the pack and in your household as well.
Becoming the pack leader helps your dog naturally submit to your rules and also gives them a great sense of security. No longer do they have to fight it out to see who the leader is. You’ve established that fact for them.
In addition, dog experts also feel that although we love our pets dearly, affection should be given in the same order it is within a pack. Although giving affection is extremely important to both you and your fur-baby, the timing should coordinate with the pack mentality. First things first, in other words.
Exercise is top of the list. Imagine how much exercise dogs got when running in packs, dodging predators, hunting, and traveling to new ground. As your dog’s pack leader, you should make sure he gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation too.
Next on the list is food. Do you know that in the dog world, dogs must work for their food? They were hunters. They also ate according to pack rules. The alpha leader of the pack ate first.
Did you know that you can respect this important natural instinct at his meal time by asking him to wait for his food rather than serving it up on a silver platter without requesting anything from him?
Now, affection comes in but never should be given at a time that he is displaying negative or needing emotions. Providing he is calm and collective, he has earned the right to be praised and petted. That makes him feel good.
Think of how unhappy spoiled children are. The same is true with your dog. When you re-enact the pack mentality that is embedded in his very DNA and follow the order of the pack rules and regulations, your dog can then receive the lavishing of affection in a dog kind of way rather than humanizing him.
Remember - exercise him, feed him, make sure he ditches unwanted, negative or needy behaviors and THEN give him affection. It’s the order of the pack.
When it comes to humans, it’s a disgrace to not embrace their race...or their culture...or anything else that sets them apart A person who has just moved to America from the Orient has many cultural differences that are to be celebrated.
We miss out on so much if we try to make them conform to pretend to be just like us. The same is true with different religions and different customs too. Your dog is an amazing creature that brings his heritage with him.
Why try to humanize him? He doesn’t try to push his canine ways onto you. There’s a beauty about living in harmony with dogs without trying to change them.
Humanizing dogs is a subject many dog psychologists warn against. They believe it brings out the worst in them such as aggressive tendencies, domination issues, obesity, loss of identity and the list goes on and on.
Imagine how frustrating it would be if you had to pretend to be something different than what you are. Turn the tables and think of how would it feel to be required to act like a dog, day in and day out, in order to meet the requirements of staying in the pack?
It wouldn’t feel natural at all because it wouldn’t be. It’s the same scenario when we humanize our dogs.
Still, many human psychologists and dog experts alike agree that there are plenty of perks for both you and your dog from behaviors like sleeping beside your furry friend and involving him in social activities like taking him shopping with you or dressing him up for a night on the town every Halloween.
Drawing a healthy line between what is fun and what is abusive is the critical key. If humanizing your dog in any area of his life is bringing harm or negative effects to either of you, it is time to stop.
You may think you are showing your love by your humanizing actions but the best way you can really show it is to love him for the wonderful dog he is...and allow him to be one so you can be sure you don’t love him to death.