The Humanization of Dogs Part 2

This is my second installment of the humanization of Dogs and I find its time to address another important area even though it might be sensitive to some.

As we all know Halloween is just around the corner. For some of us that means dressing up our children and possibly ourselves in all kinds of costumes. Some will be dressed as Witches, Ghosts, Devils, Cartoon Characters, Harry Potter Characters, Transformers, Pirates, and More. In addition to this it appears now its important to some to dress up their dogs.

As we visit the Halloween stores we were able to find several Dog Costumes. Again here we go attempting to Humanize a Dog. I have yet find any costume that either of my dogs has picked out and insisted that I buy for them, nor have they begged me to dress them up in a costume. What?s even more interesting is that the merchants, Pet Smart, Pet land, Wal-Mart, and the Halloween stores all have a supply in stock because they know, accept, and prey on the fact that there are people that wish to Humanize their dog.

By the way is this acceptable:

http://basenjirescue.blogspot.com/

Not to stray from the subject, but I read an article the other Day about President Obama?s Family throwing a birthday party for their dog. Or course we know this is not the only dog that has ever had a birthday party but I certainly wonder if the Tax Payers in this country picked up the Tab. There was even a birthday cake for this dog made out of Veal? I guess I really should have been surprised that this Dog Birthday Party was even Newsworthy.

Here is a link that talks about this dog's birthday party:

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/US-President-Obamas-Wife-Michelle-Reveals-His-Most-Annoying-Habit-Is-Him-Beating-Her-At-Tennis/Article/200910415415065?f=rss

So here we are dressing up our dogs for Halloween. In addition, we throw birthday parties for them like they were children. Of course as close as Christmas is we should not forget those that will hang up stockings for their dogs and even go as far as putting presents under the tree for them.

In addition to what has been mentioned above, there are some that arrange play dates for their animals. So after reading posts about play dates, I decided I would take a peek on the net and see if I could find the origin and definition of what a play date is.

Here is what I found:

This definition is from MSN Encarta:

play?date [ pl?y d?yt ] (plural play?dates)

noun

Definition:

date for children to play: an arranged time when children are brought together to play under supervision, often at one another's homes

This one is from Merriam Webster online:

Main Entry: play?date
Pronunciation: \ˈplā-ˌdāt
Function: noun
Date: 1984
: a play session for small children arranged in advance by their parents

As you can see these definitions specifically mention children not dogs.

I certainly have no issue of taking a dog to the dog park. At least where I live its called a Dog park and not a Dog playground.

Here is a definition from online:

Dog Park: A dog park is simply a fenced area that people can bring their (well-behaved) dogs to so they can have a little off-leash time to run around and visit with other dogs and people. Many dog parks are part of the public park system, funded by taxpayer dollars and usually with no screening or oversight.
Of course there are private dog parks as well.
You can visit the website that I referenced this definition from here:
http://www.peppypawspoochpark.com/DogParkDef.html

As you can see the attempt to Humanize dogs runs pretty deep. It has not only affected our dogs, but also our perceptions on what is appropriate treatment for a dog. Some Dog owners treat their dogs like they are their children. Apparently even in the US our president does.

What kind of damage are we doing to our dogs by treating them like children? What is acceptable to you are a dog owner?
Where is the line between the Dog and Human? Where, when, and why does it become acceptable to cross that line?

The biggest question is:
When does a dog just get to be a dog?

Jason

I dunno, Jason…I think a dog that lives as an only dog in a family gets to be a dog BY getting to play with other dogs, regardless of what the meeting is called. Halloween costumes, birthday parties...not a big deal...I think it is the manner in which the human goes about it that determines whether there are some underlying issues with the human.

I guess I feel like as long as the dog has good manners (i.e. not being spoilied rotten)..let people enjoy and celebrate their dogs however they wish. It certainly is much more damaging for the dog to be a forgotten accessory for the family who is too busy to care about it...than the dog who is pampered and dressed up for every holiday.

This is really a do as please kind of issue....I really don't think many dogs are being harmed here 🙂

In this case I disagree with at least some of what you said ComicDon. I have no problem giving our beasties a special meal on their birthday and a present (or two) under the christmas tree (what basenji doesn't like to tear things up). I think our pets deserve their special treats.

I do agree with you on the costume thing however. I see no probleme if a little kid wants to dress up their best four-legged buddy in play but I can't see adults doing the same. If you look carefully at the calendar, most of those dogs do not look happy in their costumes. If the dog doesn't like being dressed up don't do it.

On the other hand, along the lines of what Quercus said, I would much rather tolerate some doggie dressup than to see dogs neglected.

Last year, I put an elf hat on AJ during the Winter holiday season…but I didn't do it to "humanize" him. Rather, he was performing a service to humans by making them smile. This year, I was planning to get a Santa hat with whiskers and small saddle bags for him and take candy-canes around the terminal. In my opinion, doing this is no different than taking a service dog into a hospital to cheer up the patients and assist with the healing process. As has been shown in study after study, people tend to be more depressed during Winter, especially between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Adding a little cheer to their holiday season is part of a dog's job. AJ doesn't seem to mind...he likes the attention. However, he walks himself and still understands he is the dog.

I really see no issue with this, but only if he is comfortable with it. I don't believe I am "humanizing" him by doing this. As far as special things around holidays, they know something is going on. Why not make it fun for them too? (My idea of that is, yes, he will get a toy as a gift and he will get something special in his dinner dish, but that's as far as it goes. He usually has more fun with the wrapping paper anyway.)

Arranging "play dates" for dogs, I think, is a good idea. The involved owners know where and when to meet and there is more control over which dogs are involved. I believe this is better than just heading off to the dog park and hoping there are no bullies there. (As discussed in a different thread, some people do not recognize aggression in their dog, but rather say, "Look, he's being so friendly and playing." when their animal is actually picking a fight.) Perhaps calling it a "play date" is the objectionable issue.

A birthday party for a dog? Forget it. Not in this truck. It's just another day to a dog and they don't understand what's going on.

As far as a Halloween costume, unless the dog is part of the child's repertoire, there is no need for it and most dogs don't appreciate it anyway. What are they going to trick-or-treat for? I never kept dog cookies for canine visitors at Halloween. Come to think of it, nowadays, it's not a bad idea to send the dog out with the kids trick-or-treating. I'm just not so sure about the costume.

Your post is a great one for starting a discussion Jason. I think it will stir up some strong feelings.
I think i understand what you are getting at, when people humanise Dogs or other animals thay lose something, ie the Dogness of being a Dog (think i have invented a word there :D)
Dogs and other animals have qualities unique to them. Have more to say but have a visitor at the moment

Dressing the dog up in a costume for Halloween can help to make children that may trick or treat at your house more comfortable with the dog especially if they are fearful. For some just seeing the dog lounging on the couch can make them very anxious but some of those same kids are more relaxed around them if they are dressed up. If a family is taking their large dog out with them when they trick or treat a simple, friendly costume that the dog doesn't mind serves the same purpose.

I definitely let me B be a dog. I could never dress him up (I know he'd shred whatever was on him).

The play date thing is kind of a Grey area. I don't think it necessarily implies humanization, it's more of a socializing aspect. It's more of a controlled socialization that we allow our dogs to have. Perhaps if someone was working with a dog that has a behavioral issue, it helps to allow them to socialize under supervision. Dog parks allow that to some extent, although it can be less controlled (as it's usually a large area and there are more dogs).

Other than that, I know my B will always be a Basenji. I work with what he understands. Birthday parties are not exactly events that dogs would have out in the wild. They really cannot comprehend what takes place (or maybe they do, and they are quietly laughing at us). I look at it from that prospective.

For the most part I don't take my dogs to dog parks. They don't work well for my dogs. Often there are dogs there that are bullies and the owners allow them to be bullies. Most owners aren't even really watching their dogs they are having their own social hour which gives their dogs the opportunity to practice bad behavior. I do take my dogs for off leash walks with a group of known dogs and owners who have similar goals to my own. I find these walks to work much better for my dogs. I also know small dog owners who don't feel comfortable taking their dogs to dog parks for much the same reason as myself but who also don't necessarily want to take a 2 mile walk with their dogs so they arrange a play group for them. Some may even call these meetings of known dogs for the purpose of play, play dates. I don't think doing so is humanizing the dogs or preventing the dogs from being dogs while they are together. It is arranging for play that will be safe and comfortable for people and dogs.

See to me, play date, play group, what a park is named, etc…it is just semantics. When Liyah was a baby (oops I mean puppy :D) I took her to puppy play group - one of the reasons she is so good with other dogs now. Did I think about what it was called - no - just wanted her to be able to enjoy herself, get some important socialization and meet some new dog friends.

I have 3 furkids (oh no, I'm humanizing :rolleyes:) - with varying degrees of tolerance towards other dogs, their approaches and human approaches. I too don't like dog parks for the same reason that Lisa mentions - people not paying attention to their dogs or correcting their dog's bad behaviours. I can very predictably expect how my dogs will react in certain situations so I prefer to set them up for success.

Do I care if people dress their dogs up or throw a birthday party - no. I mean if the dog is really unhappy about getting dressed up, then my suggestion would be skip it. Do I dress my dogs up - no - although I did buy devil horns when they were marked down to 50cents as I thought they might be amusing given some of the antics that go on in my house. Brando tried to eat them - enough said. 😃

If I were a chef, I'd probably make special food for their birthdays. Usually because Ruby's b'day is Thanksgiving weekend, I let them all have a little turkey in celebration. Because Liyah's b'day is Christmas time, I give them special bones for Christmas - actually I did this before Liyah came along, but now there is another reason they get the treats. No harm, no foul (or fowl in the case of Ruby's b'day :D). They don't know why they get special treats, but they certainly enjoy them.

They are dogs, they are also family members. Do they get perks that undomesticated dogs don't get - yes. That is part of living in a loving family IMHO.

IMHO, Andrea had it right when she said - let people enjoy and celebrate their dog - especially when their are so many unloved dogs (paraphrased). Sure we can overthink this...

renaultf1 "I like your style".

Rita Jean

A lot of very good comments here. I would like to add and point out that I really do not think a dog understands what kind of costume they are put in whether its mean to be funny or scary. So if its a human that is deciding the purpose of the costume or what it that costume should reflect, I still maintain its a human choice and/or projection onto an animal that normally would not choose it. I also understand the Service/ therapy part of using a dog to either perform a function/assist/ or bring comfort to a human. The extra smile we get from another human that sees a dog in costume is a human response because its looked upon as funny to portray a dog with a human quality. In other words its still a humanization which is part of what these posts are about. As it has been pointed out that many dogs do not seem to like wearing costumes that brings it back to whether or not we are going to far as humans in our attempt to humanize dogs.

I do agree there is more control over which animals interact when owners organize. Once again that is a Humanization type of control. So basically if two or more dogs did not appear to get along or where aggressive to one another then that owner or dog would not be as welcome in the group. I have no doubt that other owners would make comments the behavior they observe in regard to a more aggressive or dominant dog. Comments would most likely would also be made about the owner in regard to the lack of control they have over their animal and short comings in training and/ or socialization of that animal. In the wild the dogs would sort it out, and the animal that was not welcome in a pack would be chased away or worse killed. Of course part of that is pack behavior and some of it is territorial.

Dog parks in theory provide a neutral territory for dogs to interact in order to deal with that territorial issue. Yet there are still incidents of injuries and problems. There is still some type of pecking order that appears to be established even if it is on neutral territory. I am not an animal behaviorist but I am sure there are logical reasons for this.

If your dog can sense and react to how you feel as an owner, then they will sense certain things your body language might be projecting.

I do see going to Dog park as a behavioral exercise with the added benefit of allowing your dog more freedom by letting them run off leash for pure physical exercise. In addition there is some type of socialization going on between the animals no matter what the breed. There also is potential for danger if two or more dogs cannot get along. As humans, we like to think we can control this potential danger, but the reality of it is that control is an illusion. Planned play parties(cough) allow us to think we can possibly eliminate the risk but with animals there is always the possibility of potential danger.

Jason

I know how AJ is: He thinks he has to be Alpha. Therefore, he can cause trouble with other dogs. I know which dogs will allow him that place and have no trouble with him being off leash with them. I am more careful in introducing "new" dogs and watch him closely in how he behaves with them before I allow him off leash.

Sometimes, as has been stated, it's nice just to let him run and not worry about fights. The pack order is already established. I can relax and gossip a bit. I'm not sure whether this is humanization or responsibility.

Here are a couple of articles that gives some food for thought in this discussion, they are about the coevolution of dogs and humans. Part of being a dog is having become adapted to human rules like organized play groups and appropriate household behavior.

http://www.dana.org/news/brainwork/detail.aspx?id=714
http://www.uwsp.edu/psych/s/275/Science/Coevolution03.pdf

ComicDom1: It's depressing, really, if I am always on guard my dog will hurt another dog. I do what I can to reduce the risk as much as possible. Sometimes that means AJ doesn't get to play with a certain dog. Animal ownership should be rewarding for the human as well as the animal.

As Ivoss points out, dogs evolved to be around humans, with a few exceptions. As a result, there is always going to be some sort of "humanization," if you want to be technical about it. Dogs are animals, yet we allow them in our homes. They are animals, yet we allow them on the furniture. They are animals, yet we buy special food for them and take them to the doctor. If we were to completely "dehumanize" dogs, does that mean setting them loose on the streets to fend for themselves and terrorize people in whatever packs they form?

@ComicDom1:

A lot of very good comments here. I would like to add and point out that I really do not think a dog understands what kind of costume they are put in whether its mean to be funny or scary. So if its a human that is deciding the purpose of the costume or what it that costume should reflect, I still maintain its a human choice and/or projection onto an animal that normally would not choose it.

Right, I agree. Your comment has Neuticles written all over it, to me. Just another angle. I think that from the dog's perspective with costumes and Neuticles there is the same lack of understanding of whats being done and why.

In case people don't remember, here is the thread Jason started on Neuticles, when he was considering getting them for Roo:

http://www.basenjiforums.com/showthread.php?t=5196&highlight=neuticles

Isn't the concept of Neuticles an example of humanization/anthropomorphism?

@ComicDom1:

A lot of very good comments here. I would like to add and point out that I really do not think a dog understands what kind of costume they are put in whether its mean to be funny or scary. So if its a human that is deciding the purpose of the costume or what it that costume should reflect, I still maintain its a human choice and/or projection onto an animal that normally would not choose it.

I don't dress my dogs in costumes for Halloween. (I don't really like Halloween.) But I do put Hal'n bandanas on the dogs. I'm not sure what the difference is. Da boyz are certified therapy dogs, and if we visited a place where children were, I'd get costumes for them, but don't feel inclined to do that for adults. I do think that putting on a bandana or some holiday item helps relate to the adults and may especially help with the Alzheimers people. (We do visits to an Alz facility.)

I was talking to someone (may have been an AKC rep) and she was getting geared up to train her rott to do therapy work. The first thing out of my mouth was put something silly on the dog and teach her a silly dog-and-pony trick. If I had a "bad" dog breed, or even a big black dog, you bet I'd put a silly, frilly collar on it to do therarpy visits. It softens the image of the breed and makes the dog and you more approachable. And I think it's very important for people of those breeds to go the extra mile to make their dog look friendly and have people in society have a good impression of these dogs.

There have been several people saying that the dogs don't enjoy being dressed up. That's true, but some dogs do. They realize they get extra attention when they are dressed up and really do seem to enjoy it. My mom's papillon seems to enjoy her frilly collars and many poodles love stuff like that. My basenjis don't really care much but they don't like hats; Zest was fine with panties on during the season; they don't mind the coats on cold days; they leave the bandanas alone.

Is all that "humanization" of dogs? I don't know. Is it a human choice that the dog would not choose? yea, but so are a lot of things. Any breeders care to tell the story of putting a collar on for the first time? I know my dogs would not choose to be in crates in the car or in the house. I also know they'd choose not to be on leash, skip the vet visit, etc. There are a lot of choices I make for my dogs, but the fact is that they in a human society. I know some people who would say keeping a dog inside is too much.<shrug>

I do agility with my basenjis. That is a "humanized type of control" (even off leash) but they do seem to enjoy it. Would they choose to do it without any training? Zest certainly did the dogwalk and Aframe, but not the teeter, jumps or weave poles without training, but she seems to enjoy herself when I put my criteria on the game. She enjoys the learning.

Is "humanization" a bad thing? I don't know. We all seem pretty happy and well adjusted in my house.</shrug>

Right, back to the thread, my visitor has gone now 😃
I have to say i think playdates are a cracking idea if they work well, i wish we had more over here. They are just a way of people meeting people and Dogs meeting Dogs, i think the name Playdate probably conjures up the wrong image but it doesn't realy bother me either way.
I agree Jason that probably no Dog appreciates being dressed up in fancy dress but have to admit they look awful cute sometimes and as long as the dogs not distressed in any way, can't see much harm in it, unless as Andrea says the person has some underlying issues.
Have to admit to dressing my Cat up when i was little :O, and also putting a Santa hat on Max and a wreath on Benjis head at christmas, just long enough to get a pic. No they didn't get anything out of it but it made us smile (i think they just humoured us silly humans!)
We do get our pets a pressie at christmas, obviously they dont understand the concept of present giving but they certainly know something exciting is going on and want a piece of the action.
Even our Cats come into the living room on Christmas morning and tear open their present.

@AJs:

ComicDom1: It's depressing, really, if I am always on guard my dog will hurt another dog. I do what I can to reduce the risk as much as possible. Sometimes that means AJ doesn't get to play with a certain dog. Animal ownership should be rewarding for the human as well as the animal.

As Ivoss points out, dogs evolved to be around humans, with a few exceptions. As a result, there is always going to be some sort of "humanization," if you want to be technical about it. Dogs are animals, yet we allow them in our homes. They are animals, yet we allow them on the furniture. They are animals, yet we buy special food for them and take them to the doctor. If we were to completely "dehumanize" dogs, does that mean setting them loose on the streets to fend for themselves and terrorize people in whatever packs they form?

Not to be disagreeable here, but cows and other animals have evolved around humans too. We have not turned them loose in the streets at least in this country. Pot Belly Pigs were a considered a popular pet for some back a few years ago and were even allowed to live in a home.

As far as letting dogs out on the street running loose to terrorize people in whatever packs they form, we need to remember that a large part of the dog population problem stems from human involvement in breeding. As you know we have lots of animals we have not domesticated and their population has not been as affected as our domestic pet population. So the issues are simply not the same.

De-humanization of domestic dog is simply allowing a dog to be dog without twisting or modifying them in attempts to give them human qualities and characteristics. There is a fine line between domesticating animals and humanizing them. I believe there is plenty of research that can be found to support this.

Jason

Agilebasenji little off course here. The Alzheimers it depends on how far along and the moment in time. Most would smile and know if dog had a silly coat on or hat. I am on round two of having Alzheimers live in my home so far this time been over three years and I hope many more to come. Until you have lived with Alzheimers day and night you would never believe the things that make a smile. Try a little coat or just anything just food for thought.

Rita Jean

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