Pink Poodle on the pink leash.

Anthropomorphism is a type of personification that gives human characteristics to non-humans or objects, and especially to animals. Anthropomorphism aims to make an animal or object behave and appear like they are human beings. There are countless examples of how animals have been anthropomorphed in religion, literature, movies, television and video games. However, as we coexists with our canine companions, there are instances, especially in training, when anthropomorphism would create problems for our human/dog relationships.

Dogs are the oldest domesticated species that have evolved to be an intricate and meaningful part of our human families. Undeniably, dogs have Anthropomorphismconnected to humans more significantly than any other animal. Dogs are quite clever at weaving themselves into almost all aspects of our lives. They have modified much of their natural behaviors, so that they may successfully coexist with humans. In fact, some humans would like to believe that the dog has learned to think and act like a human being. Recently, there has been a significant amount of research done on dog cognition. Scientist are very interested in the way that dogs are thinking and how they have arrived at this significant place in so many humans families. The research reminds us that a dog has direct genetic ties to the canine family and even though they have managed to successfully cohabitate with humans, they continue to think and act as dogs. The success they have had in creating a human partnership is due to the thousands of years they have been observing humans and learning the behaviors necessary to cohabitate with the human family.

Our desire to imagine that our dogs have human characteristics, can present itself as a problem for the dog. When the dog acts like a dog, and we respond to the dog as if it understands how to act like a human, confusion arises. The dog understands how to be a dog with a human, not how to be a human. Communication with dogs can already be a bit of a challenge. One of these challenges is the fact that we speak a different language, yet we expect our canine friends to understand exactly what we are saying. In our efforts to speak to the dog, we may speak louder, repeat the same word many times, or even change the word to further out our desire for them to understand. Our canine companions desperately want to understand what we are trying to communicate, but sometimes, we make it extremely difficult for them. Using words or signals they desperately want to understand, very often leaves them confused. Unfortunately, this confusion presents itself in the form of some undesirable behaviors of the dog.

When behavioral problems appear, it should be a signal to the human that the training efforts lack the appropriate methods for the dog to understand what we want to say. When this happens, it is time to attend a training class, read a dog training manual, or contact a dog trainer that understands dog’s behavior. Most trainers understand that dogs, in their domestication process, have learned to depend on the food that humans have been sharing with the dogs for thousands of years. This is a common language that humans share with dogs – food. Use a small treat during training sessions. Not a steak, but a small morsel of food, to reward the desired behavior. Give a verbal “good dog” or a pet on the neck or chin to reinforce the behaviors you wish your dog to learn. Remember that a dog is a dog. In order to communicate to your dogs, you will need to show them what you want them to do. Get excited, give a treat, let them know what you want. It is much easier for dogs to learn what we want, then to do what we don’t want them to do. They really want to learn, as they have spent thousands of years trying to understand us.

If problematic behavior continues, consult someone that can identify the appropriate methods of training for you and your dog. Every dog and human are different, so each human/dog relationship is going to be different too. Find someone who can meet your specific needs and help you understand your canine friend better.

My favorite person here in Utah is Sara Baker at Spoiled K-9.
For a perfect way to always be prepared with a snack to reward the behaviors you desire, check out the Pooch Pouch at


Posted by
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl Wilson created Why We Wag in 2012 as her result of her lifelong love of dogs. After 22 years in the Educational sector, Cheryl utilizes her expertise as an award winning educator, to educate dog lovers, along with offering supplies that support a healthy, meaningful relationship with canines. Residing in Utah, Cheryl is celebrating her 5th generation with dogs and now her first generation of grand-dogs.