When words like 'fur-kid' and 'fur-baby' started to become part of our everyday lingo, it initially gave me pause. Gradually, I started to feel mild annoyance when hearing them. Fast forward a few years and now, they elicit a deep frustration in me.
I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but let's face it, this is likely to be a controversial topic. I anticipate ruffling a few feathers, but I hope you will bear with me and keep an open mind.
I have not idea what the origin was for these terms. Who knows where they started. Likely as an attempt to be endearing. Perhaps it was a clever meme that coined them and got traction. Regardless, people ran with these terms and now, they've become a normal part of our lingo.
So, what's the big deal? They're just words!
I hear you - that's where I started in my thinking too.
The problem is, it's another way of anthropomorphizing (applying human qualities and tendencies to things that are not human) and that is almost NEVER good for our dogs.
Anthropomorphizing is dangerous for our dogs!
At best, it continues to skew the line between two species and clouds the FACT that there are HUGE differences in how we think, feel and communicate.
At worst, it makes it okay to think of dogs in less than endearing terms as well.
Allow me to elaborate.
If it is okay to think of dogs with terms, like 'fur-babies', it also makes it okay for people to think of dogs as stubborn, or jerks or .... fill in the blank with any other unfair label that make people think dogs are somehow spiteful or vindictive. It causes us to believe that they are only here to cause us grief and that they are manipulative in their desires to do so.
It does not lead us to think factually - that they are trying to navigate our world and our expectations which are totally foreign to them as a different species.
What I'm saying is: without empathy and true understanding from the HUMAN in the relationship, how will we ever progress with that dog?
The more we fur-baby our way through the dog world, the more the rest settles in as logic as well.
I will say it again: anthropomorphizing is dangerous for dogs.
Please, think hard about that other side of the coin - the non-endearing terms that we use to describe dogs. We spend a lot of my time creating content that will help people see dogs as dogs and not little humans. This is not just to reinforce our way of thinking. It's to try to counteract some of the misinformation that our society spews at dog owners.
If we continue to think of our dogs as stubborn, we will never progress - how could we possibly treat the symptoms when the diagnosis is completely wrong?
If you continue to think of your dog as spiteful, or vengeful or a jerk - how will you ever see clearly to change offending behaviours?
Ponder this scenario: you leave a young dog with unreliable chewing habits alone while you busy yourself reading emails. The dog hangs around at your feet for a bit, but ultimately, since you're focus is elsewhere, they wander away to find something to fill the needs they have in the moment.
They find the remote control.... (you see where this is going)
... and it smells wonderful - just like the popcorn you ate last night while you binge-watched episodes of "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix. Your young dog smells it from the other room and goes to investigate - that's the real reason he left your feet. Dogs are scavengers and opportunists. That's a feature of being a creature whose instincts are focused on survival.
So, the remote smells like delicious popcorn and tastes almost as good. It also yields to chewing nicely and the crunching plastic is so satisfying to a creature who is tactile with their mouths and loves a good chewing challenge. Plus, it smells edible.... Yum!
Did you know that dogs instinctively practice skills like chewing, ripping and tearing because those are skills they'll need to feed themselves? It's actually instinctual for a dog to chew and tear. Do you think there is anything off-limits in a dog's world when it comes to chewing? These are the facts that we miss when we see dogs as humans.
To someone who views this creature as a dog, they may see that all of those needs being met by seeking out and destroying the remote is a normal example of a dog being a dog. This person may smack themselves in the head and vow to do better with supervision in the future - at least until the youngster has a solid understanding that chewing things in a humans world is, for some reason, wrong.
To someone who views this creature as a little human, they will likely surround this act within a human construct, and that looks like a very different thing.
If you see this dog chewing up the remote control as an act of difiance, or vengence for being ignored and bored, you have just proven my point!
It's very easy for us to falsely observe this behaviour as malicious since we think like humans - these thoughts sink in and alter the way we see things. Before we know it, we're believing the wrong things and reacting with the wrong solutions.
It doesn't take much to change our way of thinking. This often occurs as a fluid motion that we don't even realize is happening. Hear the same message a few times and have a few others validate that message with their own misguided opinions and we've got a recipe to alter our psyche and the way we think.
Join me in an experiment.
For one full week, try this every time you feel somehow wronged while driving. When another driver cuts you off or you're being tailgated, instead of thinking "what a jerk," I want you to think "maybe they're not doing this on purpose". Then, think about a situation where you’ve unintentionally cut someone off (we've all done it!) or you've caught yourself daydreaming and realize you're following too close after a brake-check by the car in front of you.
Truly, play along and try to believe the other driver's intent was as innocent as your own in those instances.
You may not have a complete shift in thinking by the end of the week, but you will at least have opened up your mind to the possibility of believing that there were other factors in what the offending driver did wrong; that there were other reasons that person acted as they did besides them simply being inconsiderate.
The following week, I want you to do the same thing for your dog!
It doesn’t take much for us to have a psychological shift in our thinking and often that occurs without us really even realizing it on a conscious level.
... and THAT, in my opinion, is why words like fur-kid and fur-baby are so important to avoid.
Make them your dogs, your pets, your 4-legged family members - not your little humans, for they shine as dogs!
Food for thought!
As always, Happy Training!