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Post No.: 0423anthropomorphism

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

I know you really want to talk about animal body language and the subject of anthropomorphism now.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Yes I do. I think this topic of anthropomorphism is important to discuss because lots of people intuitively, but wrongly in many cases, attribute human traits, emotions and intentions to non-human animals (and other objects and phenomena).

 

Anthropomorphism assumes that other animals perceive the world the same way as people do, think the same way as people do, and want the same things as people do. When it comes to pets, anthropomorphism also involves people reading non-human body language according to human body language, for assuming that animals express themselves in the same ways as people do too.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

In cartoons and made-up creations it’s fun and fine(!) but I, for the most part, don’t like the anthropomorphism of real-life, non-human animals either. Please don’t dress pets up like little people! There are many misinterpretations of what a pet’s body language really means because people are interpreting them under a human lens. Humans are at the centre of their own universe but they’re not at the centre of the universe!

 

Now as mammals, there are many shared body language expressions and their meanings between humans, cats and dogs, but there isn’t a one-to-one mapping.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Assuming that the facial expressions of another animal conveys exactly the same meanings as with human facial expressions is problematic because, for one thing, lots of animals move their ears to communicate when humans can’t and don’t do that. Lots of animals communicate with their tails too.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

And it’s not really about whether a creature ‘appears’ happy or not from a human interpretation but whether they ‘are’ happy or not, and that needs some education and experience rather than raw intuitions and assumptions.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

The main pet peeve I have with anthropomorphism is when owners see supposed ‘expressions of guilt’ on their dogs’ faces and assume that it means that their dog has done something wrong. But the dog might not have… Micky was innocent dude!

 

Hackle raising is also ambiguous. Tail wagging can convey totally opposing emotions depending on the details. And exposing the belly evolved not as a call for a belly rub but as a sign of appeasement to tell others to leave us alone; albeit co-adaptation and how a particular dog was raised with having his/her belly rubbed and what he/she has learnt to associate it with (and perhaps slowly specie’s co-evolution with humans too?) means that some individual dogs like, or are less bothered about, having their bellies rubbed now. Nevertheless, one should still learn to recognise the difference between an appeasement posture (which is quite stiff) and a playful posture.

 

I personally don’t mind having my little tummy rubbed but other dogs might mind a lot. Woof!

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

A cat can purr for many reasons. Our vocalisations seem to be very individual to us. We naturally scratch things because we need to take care of our claws. And we generally don’t like to live with other cats; although, again, individual co-adaptation with other cats, especially if we were socialised from young to live with each other (and maybe also slowly specie’s evolution too?) means that some cats are fine with living closely with particular other cats.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Different humans have different accents, and so can different cats and dogs, never mind different breeds of them.

 

Barking, whining or other vocalisations can be for capturing attention, greeting, as an alarm that a perceived threat is near (particularly with guard dog breeds), for soliciting something, for signalling excitement, frustration or separation anxiety, barking socially because other dogs are doing so, or simply because the owner has rewarded barking by constantly coming over and interacting with their dog every single time he/she barks – even though the owner believes that these interactions are reprimands to tell the dog to stop barking(!)

 

They don’t understand English or other human languages the way you do – just particular sounds that have been taught to become associated with particular objects and/or actions. So if a dog is barking and wants or wouldn’t mind your attention, and you go up to him/her in a tirade, then the dog won’t understand what you’re saying but will learn that barking sometimes eventually gets you to pay him/her attention. And if you only sometimes do this too, this emulates a variable reinforcement schedule, which is like the reward schedule of an addicting casino game!

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Dogs and other animals, just like humans this time, are prone to forming over-generalisations too. For example, a dog may only bark at a specific person because that person reminds her/him of someone who had mistreated her/him in the past. That person is probably innocent but just looks, sounds or smells like someone who wasn’t. That’s why, like humans again, they need to be socialised with a diverse range of people, and other dogs and animals in general, so that they can learn that ‘not all people who look like x are scary people’.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

‘Whale eye’, or dogs showing the sclera or whites of their eyes via an averted gaze, signals fear or anxiety, which may become a precursor to aggression if the source of anxiety doesn’t cease or back off. A dog with erect hackles may signal aggression but it might also just signal alertness and interest.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Therefore like when reading human body language – it’s important to read in clusters or escalations of cues rather than cues in isolation, and consider the contexts, as well as take note of the details, such as the position of the tail.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

That’s correct. With dogs, a wagging tail is not necessarily friendly – it depends on the height of the tail, the speed of the wag, the breadth of the wag and even which side a wag is more biased towards. A fast, small-breadth wag is usually a sign that a dog is about to do something, such as run or fight. Wagging with the tail held high likely signals an active threat. A broad wag is friendly and happy, especially if the tail seems to drag the booty or hips with it. A tail that wags more to a dog’s right side communicates positive feelings, and vice-versa if it wags more to their left side.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

If you learn to observe and listen to and communicate with your pet in a way that they communicate and understand then it will not only be good for the pet but for you and the relationship too. We’ll love you even more. <3

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Well-socialised dogs will normally enjoy the company of other dogs and will communicate effectively with each other to put appropriate boundaries in place.

 

Dogs very rarely ever play too rough to the point of actual violence because there are rules. The ‘play bow’ gesture signals ‘let’s play’, for instance. Dogs will make sure this signal is received and reciprocated before they play together, then they will self-handicap to soften their bites and bumps to not cause harm to their playmates, and they will back off if it gets too rough and will wait until a reciprocated play bow is signalled again before recommencing the play. If violations are made too often then such violators may be shunned.

 

Two dogs growling does not necessarily mean aggression – if we look at the rest of their body languages and they show relaxed facial expressions and soft mouths and see that they’re both contributing to the interaction, then they’re just playing.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

I’ve personally learnt that dogs can be very protective of their precious resources, such as their bone or favourite toy, though, even amongst their friends. And this is signalled with a direct stare and threatening growl.

 

Guarding precious resources is usually a learned behaviour as a result of previously living in a deprived environment where guarding was deemed necessary, or as a result of inappropriate attempts at training, where humans have taken their food or toys away in unpredictable ways.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Those poor curs and bitches. (I’m allowed to call them that – you’re not! Okay, you can.)

 

That ‘guilty’ look with dogs is not so much about what they have done but about how their owners are reacting towards them – for if an owner rebukes his/her dog, the dog will ‘express guilt’ whether the dog did something naughty or not; or if the owner does not rebuke his/her dog, the dog will behave as if everything is all right whether the dog did something naughty or not! In other words, this expression is in response to the owner’s reaction to the dog rather than in response to having committed an accused act or not.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Dogs are incredibly sensitive to their owner’s body language and vocal intonations, and this ‘expression of guilt’ – or really expression of appeasement – is more in response to reading their owner’s expressions and feeling worried about why their owners are angry, and seemingly towards them. This expression probably evolved to show that they’re non-threatening (by cowering, looking down or lowering their heads), to defuse the aggression and to say ‘if you’re about to hurt me for whatever reason then please don’t’.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

If a dog commits an act that his/her owner has expressed anger towards before, then the dog may learn to anticipate his/her owner’s anger after doing it again, and so express that appeasement expression before the owner has even vented any anger towards the latest incident yet. In such cases, it very much seems like guilt but it’s really just a learned reaction. If you want the dog to stop committing that act then remove the temptations, such as store the shoes out of reach if you don’t want your dog chewing on them again, and reward desired behaviours (read Post No.: 0400).

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

A dog knows when she/he is in trouble but it’s debateable, without the dog perhaps telling people in an unambiguous human language, whether she/he is actually feeling guilt. So people must understand the potential disparity between their apparent external facial or bodily expressions, as interpreted by humans via anthropomorphism, and their true internal states or feelings.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Anthropomorphism leads people to presume that other animals can rationalise, moralise and control themselves in ways that humans are expected to be able to do in similar situations. And so when a pet fails to comply with such standards, it appears justifiable to get angry with and punish them. But labelling a pet as ‘guilty’ assumes that the animal ‘should’ve known better’ when really their owners are the ones responsible for their behaviours. These unreasonable expectations of cats and dogs, borne out of specious anthropomorphism, can lead to a needlessly frustrating relationship with one’s pet.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Dogs have been bred and domesticated to live with humans for many millennia so they’re not wild animals as such. (Some can turn feral but it doesn’t make them innately wild.) During this time, dogs have somewhat learnt to successfully read the emotions of humans so it’s time for people to start properly learning about their emotions, their needs and what’s best for their welfare through their perspectives rather than through human perspectives and applying coarse anthropomorphism. The same for domesticated cats and other sentient animals too.

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Thanks. Since dogs have evolved alongside humans for a very long time though, we can sometimes attempt some signals that we only show to humans rather than other dogs.

 

…Such as (although don’t confuse it with an aggressive or submissive one) a big, smiley, toothy grin :D!

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Say cheese!

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Maybe we’ll talk more about cat body language next time we’re together.

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Excellent. I cannot wait…

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

Woof!

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Meow!

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

JUSTICE FOR MICKY! JUSTICE FOR MICKY! JUSTICE FOR MICKY!..

 

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