Anthropomorphism – What is it and How it Causes Problems for Dog Owners

Anthropomorphism – What is it and How it Causes Problems for Dog Owners

Do you have dogs instead of kids? Do you consider yourself a pet parent? While these terms are cute and really do not do any harm – the mentality behind them may be the reason why you and your dog don’t have the relationship you want.

A growing trend in society is to equate dogs to humans, specifically kids. And this is where anthropomorphism comes in. What is that big word? It simple means to give human traits – including behaviors, motivations, emotions, characteristics – to non-human objects, animals or even natural phenomena (“The sky is angry,” says the little girl as lightening crashes down).

Anthropomorphism is a totally natural thing humans do to help us understand things that are different from us and we use it as a way to describe things. The little girl above is just trying to understand what lightning and thunder is all about. Some of us see a splattered painting and the colors on it may induce comments such as, “It looks sad (blues), or angry/passionate/in love (reds).”

But there is a problem when we do this with other living beings. Those living beings actually do have their own set of characteristics and behaviors and they are not the same as ours. To project upon them our own emotions and motivations can have tragic consequences.

“The dog was smiling, I thought it was happy,” says the woman just before she gets bit. The problem is, dogs don’t smile. They do have a submission grin and an aggressive grin (snarl) that can be hard to distinguish between. Or the dog’s mouth may have been open because it was stress panting or about to stress yawn.

Another disservice we do our canine companions is giving them our emotions. Rampant on social media is the “guilty” dog. “My dog knows what he did – look how guilty is.” However, scientific studies have proven dogs don’t feel guilt.

That look many humans describe as “guilt” is actually your dog being stressed (compare the “guilty dog look” with signs of stress in dogs) or even fearful because track record tells them that when you raise your voice, or come at them hastily, a correction is coming. Your dog can read your mood as soon as you step into the house – too bad we can’t do the same for them.

Another injustice is people teasing or scaring their dogs because we think it’s funny. The problem is, dogs don’t understand humor (they don’t laugh) or that you were “just joking” when you scared her so badly she practically jumped out of her skin.

How does all this affect dogs? Scientists believe anthropomorphism is one of the causes of bad behavior. A study by Topal, Miklosi, and Csanyi showed that owners who anthropomorphize have dogs that are more dependent (including separation anxiety) and have decreased problem solving abilities.

How to Live Better with Your Dog

The best way to live a peaceful existence with your dog, where you are both happy in your relationship, is to treat your dog like a dog. Learn what science has taught us about canine body language and then use this to assess your dog’s actions. And please, if you are using Google, make sure the information you are reading comes from a reliable study or expert in the subject area – not someone who just loves their dog a lot and thinks they know what their dog is thinking.

What Science Has Told Us About Dogs:

They like routine and structure. This means keeping the rules the same (don’t allow them on the couch one week and then scold them the next week when they jump up), stick with a training method and make sure everyone in the house follows the rules.

They do feel pain, love, fear, anger, anxiety and stress. BUT they don’t show it in the same way we do. Learn THEIR signs, don’t assess your dog based on how we humans display these emotions.

Dogs are opportunist. Scientists and behaviorists have learned that dogs are opportunists, meaning they do what works to get them what they want. Dog owners witness this with things like counter surfing. Dog gets on counter once, is rewarded with food, and then does the behavior more and more. This is why positive reinforcement training works. It works with a dog’s natural motivations. Humans work in the same way, technically. But the difference is WHAT we will work for. Your dog doesn’t care in the slightest about sitting and heeling for a blue ribbon or points. And it’s not likely that your dog sits on the couch wondering how he can please you better and comes up with “I know, I’ll sit faster next time!” However, what we have learned is that if the dog is rewarded in a way that has value to that particular dog, he will do the behavior more often. So, if you reward your dog for sitting, he is going to sit more often. So learn what your dog likes and use it as a reward for the behaviors you like!

Just remember to stop and think before you end a sentence such as, “My dog is feeling…,” “my dog thinks…” or “my dog is acting like he’s…” Are you basing the rest of that sentence on scientific fact or are you projecting your human traits on him? You might be surprised at how much you learn about your dog if you start using canine language with him. And you will both be better off.

Is Your Grain Free Dog Food Really Grain Free?

Is Your Grain Free Dog Food Really Grain Free?

If you feed your dog grain free dog food, you may feel pretty good about yourself, thinking you are feeding him the best food available. Unfortunately, grain free dog foods are not created equally. And you should always ask, “Is my grain free dog food really grain free?” This may seem like a strange question, but the truth is, just because a dog food says it’s grain free, doesn’t mean it really is. Like with everything that has to do with dog nutrition, you really have to do your research, read the labels, and research again.

Now you are probably thinking, wait if they say it is grain free, it has to be, right? Otherwise, it’s false advertising, right? Wrong again.

If the grain is coming from a secondary source within an ingredient, they don’t have to test for it or add it to the label.

So how exactly does the grain get in the food? Through the meat. Your dog’s meat is coming from animals that are largely raised on grains. Grain is good for herbivores like cows and sheep, and for poultry such as chickens and ducks. Not so much your dog.

Look at the ingredients in your dog’s grain free dog food. Here is example of an ingredient list from another brand:

Meat (Poultry meal & meat meal, duck meal & meat meals), vegetables & vegetables meals (including potato, peas, carrots, pumpkin), potato & Tapioca starch, Tallows & oils (Poultry and Vegetable), Beet Pulp, Chicken Digest, Oil seeds (Canola & Linseed), Egg Powder, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (A, D, E, B1, B5, B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, B12) and Minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Selenium), Kelp Meal, Choline Chloride, Soy Lecithin Powder, Dried Chicory Root, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Garlic Powder, Tomato Powder, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Antioxidants.

It starts out with meat meals, and while vague you are probably thinking that’s a good thing – it’s the first ingredient. However, any time a label says “meat” or something vague such as “poultry” instead of being specific on type of animal, the meal can contain offal – parts of the animal such as organs, guts (may contain grains and chicken poo) feathers, head, feet, beak, etc. On the other hand, if the ingredients say specifically chicken meal or turkey meal, they cannot. Stay Loyal only uses chicken and turkey meal without guts, feathers, heads and feet. This ensures we are truly grain free.

So if your dog is having a reaction like he is eating grain while on a grain free food, check your dog food and treats, it may contain hidden grains.

Other Things to Remember When Shopping Grain Free

When comparing grain free dog foods, here are a few other things to watch for to ensure you really are getting quality food. After all, a food could be grain free but still low quality – it’s like eating gluten free cake. Sure, it’s free of wheat gluten, but it still has plenty of sugar, fat, and other things that aren’t the best for us humans.

Any label that just says “meat meal” (like the above label) is something to stay clear of because you never know what protein or mix of proteins your dog is getting. And, if your dog is allergic to a certain protein, the food may cause problems one month and then not the next as the proteins change, making it impossible for you to figure out the source of your dog’s discomfort.

Be sure the main protein source is meat, not vegetables. Dogs do better if the majority of the protein in their food is from meat.

Finally, don’t forget to look at the fats and oils – they should be specific fats so you know exactly what type your dog is getting. This is important for allergies, but also so that you can make sure ratios are correct, like the Omega-6 and Omega-3 ratio that should be around 5 to1.

For more information on the differences in grain free dog foods, check out this comparison article.

Are There Vaccination Alternatives For Dogs?

Are There Vaccination Alternatives For Dogs?

How often you should vaccinate your dog has become a great debate among many. Those that tend to be in the holistic or natural camp argue against over vaccinating, which some believe causes problems such as cancer (there has been some scientific evidence of this, especially in cats, but nothing concrete). Those in the medical fields understandably stick to the guidelines the vaccine companies give, which includes vaccinating every year for some and as frequently as every six months for Bordetella.

As I’ve mentioned before, frequent vaccination is really a marketing strategy by the companies that make the vaccines – after all, if every dog is only vaccinated once every 5-7 years, there is not much profit there. But yearly vaccines on millions of dogs – you don’t have to do the math to see the difference in profits there!

Here is what the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Task Force recommends for vaccinations:

Parvo and Distemper

Vaccinating Puppies Under 16 weeks:

Initial vaccination: Between 6-8 weeks of age.

Boosters: Two boosters should be given every 3-4 weeks before the puppy reaches 16 weeks, with the last booster given after 14 weeks to minimize risk of intervention by the mother’s antibodies.

Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a fourth booster no later than 1 year after the completion of the series.

Vaccinating Puppies Over 16 weeks:

One vaccine is all that is required for first “series.”

Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a booster every three years after that.

The Task Force Found That:

The Parvo and Distemper vaccination lasts 5 years and the Adenovirus for at least 7 years


It means that your dog may not even need the revaccination guidelines set forth after the initial booster. A lot of it depends on the risks that your dog is expose to. The following are dogs that will be at higher risk to contract illnesses, including Bordatella, Parainfluenza, Parvo, Distemper and Adenovirus:

· Dogs that go to public places such as dog parks

· Dogs that stay at boarding kennels

· Dogs that frequent groomers where they sit in kennels

· Dogs that go to training classes

· Dogs that show/compete at events

· Dogs with compromised immune systems

· Senior dogs

If your dog fits on or more of these, then they may need to be vaccinated more frequently to reduce risk. Many kennels or dog daycares will require your dog to stay up-to-date on these vaccines. You should be aware that most vets give Bordatella and Parainfluenza in a vaccine that also includes Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus (called a C5). Be aware of this if you are just looking for a Bordatella booster to go a kennel, you may be inadvertently over-vaccinating your dog, especially if your dog just had a C3 (the vaccine containing Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus).

Titers: An Alternative to Vaccines

However, even at places that require vaccines, there is an alternative. A Titer is a test your vet can do to check the level of antibodies to disease in your dog’s blood. As long as they have the right levels, they do not need to be vaccinated. Titers are a great way to make sure you are not over-vaccinating your dog while providing peace of mind that they are protected from viruses. And, most kennels will take the titer test results in lieu of vaccines. (Be sure to check with them first, as each place has their own rules).

You can also help mitigate risk by bringing your own water and bowls to public places you take your dog. Pay attention to local news and ask your vet if there are any outbreaks of illnesses that you should be aware of. If there are, keep your dog home for a few weeks if you are worried they may be susceptible.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours on how often you vaccinate your dog. The best you can do is weigh your risks, talk to your vet, and make an informed decision.