The Human-Dog Relationship
Are you in a relationship? It might be with a spouse or a partner, a child or parent. It may also be with a dog, cat, bird, or even hamster or fish.
Every time you respond to another, whatever the species, you are relating, and that means you are in relationship with them.
Every time you interact with your dog, you are setting the tone for your relationship with her. If you use violence or intimidation, your relationship will reflect it. If you use kindness and positive reinforcement, it will show in the quality of your connection.
We know from research that dogs think very much like two year old children. And we also know they have the same brain structures as human beings. They are believed to feel love, fear, loneliness, happiness, and more. Some practitioners of dominance theory, disproved decades ago, would have us bend down with arms forcefully spread, while moving aggressively in to our dog’s space. All the while making hard and intimidating eye contact. There are examples of this on Youtube, and a popular reality tv show star is a prime example.
Would you do that to a two year old child?
There are problems when we anthropomorphize too much. For instance, we may assume dogs like to be hugged as much as we do, when in fact most are uncomfortable with it. This can lead to being bitten which can seem surprising to those unfamiliar with dog body language. But when it comes to the quality of this relationship, I believe informed anthropomorphizing can be a good thing. It helps us to empathize.
In any relationship, if you attend to the other’s needs even a little, you will get more of your own needs met. This is true whether the other is your friend, lover, parent, child, or even your dog.