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Dogs as beloved family members
Published 2010/12/20

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that dogs think like people. But this assumption can be a big mistake, leading to a lack of understanding on the owner’s part, which then only creates new problems or exacerbates existing ones.

Psychologists from the early 20th century tended to be extremists who believed that pets were devoid of thought, intelligence or emotion. Fortunately, these ideologies have been highly contested, and with good reason. Like a pendulum, the truth doesn’t lie to the extreme right or to the extreme left, but somewhere in the middle.

Having realized that pets do have emotions and can even solve certain problems, most experts now agree that they do have intelligence and/or awareness; it’s just that they don’t express these characteristics in the same way as human beings. The deep love we feel for our dogs leads us to hope that they feel the same way about us and that their behaviours are influenced by the love they feel for us or that we hope they feel for us. Do you believe that a dog that runs out the front door when it’s left ajar doesn’t love his owner? It’s a mistake to attribute human emotions to pet behaviours.

Dogs repeat behaviours for which they have intentionally or unintentionally been rewarded or which they see as pleasant. How your dog behaves around you is more a reflection of the time and effort you have put into him. A dog will be well-behaved if your expectations of him are realistic and express what he can offer you as a dog. Remember that dogs repeat behaviours that are positively reinforced and repress negative behaviours that are ignored.

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