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The Problem with Treating Your Dog Like a Human
Most dog owners regard their furry friend as part of the family. This is healthy for the dog owner who benefits from the canine companionship and it’s also good for the dog who regards the household humans as part of its pack. However, it’s a mistake to treat a dog like a human or to associate human motives to its behavior. While it’s a remarkable fact that dogs have adapted so well to living among humans, it is still a different species with important behavioral differences. Treating it like a human can confuse it and possibly encourage undesirable behavior, including biting. Thus, an animal liability policy may be needed. Here are four common ways this happens:
Comforting Your Dog When It’s Anxious or Aggressive
Comforting someone is an act of human empathy. It reassures the person that things are OK because someone cares about him or her. This is a human reaction. Dogs react to this differently. They associate the attention and petting with their current behavior. To get more of this pleasurable attention, they repeat the anxious or aggressive behavior that caused it. Expressing reassurance to your dog encourages it to continue being anxious or aggressive in certain situations. Both of these emotional states are conducive to biting.
Punishing Your Dog for a Past Transgression
Dogs live in the moment. They lack the cognitive ability to remember and feel guilty about a past transgression. Any reprimands of your dog’s undesirable behavior must be done immediately after the act. Otherwise, it will associate the reprimand with something else. Your dog may even associate it with you. This can confuse and make your dog unstable. No matter how bad the misbehavior, it does nothing for your dog to reprimand it later.
Allowing Dominant Behavior in Your Dog
Dismissing dominant behavior as if it were a cute personality quirk causes the dog to get used to getting its own way. This can lead to the dog biting someone who doesn’t go along with its demands. This will most likely happen to someone, such as a small child, who the dog regards as lowest in the “pack’s” pecking order.
Assuming Your Dog Will Be Kind to Children and Small Animals
Kindness to children is an adult human nurturing instinct we have toward our own young. The fact that we extend it to other species is a unique human quirk. If your affectionate dog kills your pet hamster or songbird, punishment for acting on a basic predatory instinct is expecting too much.
Likewise, because your dog isn’t human, it doesn’t share your nurturing instinct for children. This is why you should never allow unsupervised interactions between your dog and small children.
Treating your dog like a person can backfire and cause biting. When this happens more than once, your home insurance animal liability coverage may not apply because your dog has a bite history.
Originally published October 16, 2017 2:01 PM, updated April 30, 2020