Archive for Understanding Dogs Abilities
Do We Expect To Much?
Do your understand your dog abilities? I cannot tell you how many times people have said to me that their dog thinks it is human and I always give the same answer “No it doesn’t it probably thinks you’re a dog” Though not strictly true, it serves to emphasise that dogs are not little human beings in fur coats.
If we could teach a dog to draw and give the concept of a “God” it would draw “God” as a dog. Many so called dog trainers and countless owners have a mistaken perception of what really constitutes a dog, and often have expectations far above the animals actual ability.
Some people imagine that their dogs are able to understand complex thought patterns and comprehend our moral and ethical codes; They assume a dog’s level of understanding is on a par with our own.
Animals work on drive levels and instinct. It is vital to keep in mind that they do not have the capacity to comprehend the complex thought processes that bring us to understand human emotions, language, and behaviour.
There is a scientific name for this “Anthropomorphism”: The textbook definition of anthropomorphism is “to assign emotions or thought patterns to animals or objects, which are incapable of achieving such dimensions”. This is like explaining that a vine climbs up the tree to get a better view of the garden. Just think how often you blamed your computer for being bloody minded or awkward? logical? I think not.
I believe that anthropomorphism is one of the main reasons we find immense difficulty in communicating successfully with our pets. So why do we do it? Humans always find it easier to relate to something when they see their own emotions and thought patterns into the actions of their animals. Using the vine illustration, this is an example of projection. Projection is a psychological phenomenon in which one projects their feelings upon others, including animals, and inanimate objects. This is useful in everyday life as it takes the guesswork out of reality. Instead of constantly contemplating why something is like it is, you simply put it into context with how you think and view your everyday life.
Dogs are capable of linking ideas together, but are totally incapable of linking actions that are separated by time. If for example a dog makes a mess on the floor during your absence, there is no point in telling the dog off or rubbing its nose in it, which to my mind is barbaric, you wouldn’t rub a child’s nose in a soiled nappy? and even if you did, what learning process would the child get?
The dog’s brain cannot link the action with any passage of time. it is believed this passage of time level is 3.5 seconds So many people say to me, “He knows he has done wrong” or ” look at him you can see he is guilty”. NO HE DOESN’T, he actually looks submissive which to our anthropomorphic minds unfortunately appears like guilt. The reason he is submissive is he can read every nuance and movement in your body language and is aware you are annoyed, but not why?. This is because their brains are not formulated to feel guilt as we perceive it.
A dog’s brain is much smaller than a humans, especially in the upper part of the brain called the cerebrum – the portion of the brain associated with intellectual functions such as speech, memory, consciousness, and logical and emotional thought. They cannot understand human language. It is far more important to use sound patterns, intonation, facial and body language as a form of communication.
A dog wants to please and all learning should be based on positive reinforcement. We should be aware that a large part of a dog’s brain is occupied with sensory activity, particularly the interpretation of scent.