Lv 5
Remdog asked in PetsDogs · 1 decade ago

emotion v. anthropomorphizing?

I had the privilege to meet with Dr. Temple Grandin recently and listened to her views on the scope of animal emotion. I'm in animal science, therefore much of this concerned livestock, but I was impressed by her convictions regarding an animal's ability to feel. She did speak to dogs quite a bit, and expressed that they (along with our meat animals) do in fact feel fear, anxiety, joy and lust. My question, to her and to this group- how can we conceptualize animal emotions in a way thay best serves them? How do we walk the fine line between respect and detrimental anthropomorphizing?

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I think the way it can be done best is to realise while animals 'feel' things, they aren't emotions. They are just chemical reactions to outside stimuli. Even our emotions are just dictated by chemistry but our superior intelligence allows us to explore them and slap names on them and call them such.

    It is not so much that dogs understand and experience little of what we feel, it is just that we understand a whole lot more and have a much larger range of emotions.

    Dogs dont understand why they feel how they do... extrapolating anything from humans to dogs is idiotic and dangerous, especially emotions as when someone is presented with the idea that dogs feel emotions, they take that as the experience human emotions which is not so.

    They do what they must to survive and mate and reading those internal 'feelings' is how they accomplish that. Even though they have been domesticated, they still retain all those 'feelings' just in a human environment.

    I believe dogs remember experiences, whether good or bad, and the behaviour of the dog in the same set of circumstances will depend on its temperament.

    Like i hid all tennis balls in a storage cupboard in the kitchen, for four years my dog has associated that with playing and with good things. However once he stepped on a nail in a part of our garden and his paw got cut up pretty bad, he has avoided that area since it happened, coincidence? i am not sure.

    The dog obviously experienced some type of feeling for both of these circumstances, to go any further would really be taking the question down the temperament road and i don't want to get confused by the difference.

    Dogs function at a much more basic level. You respect a dog by realising that and realising that when you think your dog loves you because it follows you everywhere and 'misses you', it is really just because the dog is so dependent on you, it feels it can't function alone.

    When we understand that it is OK to expect a dog to be a dog and it is OK to treat a dog like what it is... a pretty basic animal with limited intelligence, that is how we can best serve them, by treating them like dogs.

    Expecting them to be anything more is detrimental.

  • 1 decade ago

    In general, I think animals do not dwell on the past, or anticipate the future (although my last foster was a very strange little dog who seemed to anticipate things that had not happened yet.).

    How could any animal function without fear? How would an antelope know when to run away from a predator? Anxiety is an just unfocused form of fear.

    Obviously animals feel pleasure.

    And without sexual drive how would animals continue?

    I think the problem is when people start to assign more complex emotions like vindictiveness, and read their own emotions into the animals actions. They feel sorry for a dog that has had a hard life, and assume that the dog is going to dwell on what has happened to him (probably because they do). The dog is ready to move on, but they are not.

    The other day my mother was looking at one of my foster dogs who appears to have had puppies at some point. She said something like "Oh...poor thing....I wonder if she misses her puppies?".

    Meanwhile the dog was happily snuggled up in a soft warm blanket, had a full stomach, was obviously content and NOT thinking about puppies.

    THAT is anthropomorphizing. :o)

    Source(s): lots o dogs
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think the biggest thing to remember is that pets live in the moment - I do believe they have emotion, but they experience fear, anxiety, joy, or whatever, based on what is happening at that moment. They do not feel fear or anxiety in anticipation of something happening; they do not worry about some future event or dwell on a past event.

    And I think that is the basic difference between emotions in an animal and emotions in a person. We anticipate, we worry, we rethink and analyze. If a dog feels pain, it feels pain. If a person feels pain, there is not just the pain; there is the concern over what it might be, or if could kill us.

    Personally, I have a goal, to learn to live in the moment the way my dog does.

  • 1 decade ago

    If we knew the answer to this, it would not be an ongoing debate! I wholeheartedly believe that I can determine my dog's emotions, and can observe emotions in my horses as well. Every species of animal demonstrates emotions at times, especially when pair interactions or parent-offspring interactions are occurring. The debate between real emotion and antropomorphic projection is pretty silly to me. Growing up in an environment where assigning emotions to animals WAS considered antropomorphic, it took years for me to begin to believe the emotions I was seeing were real. As a vet tech, then RN, and now professional Dog Trainer, my beliefs have evolved slowly to believe the opposite. Yes, people attribute thoughts and emotions to their animals constantly that are not realistic, but this does not mean those same animals don't live a full emotional life! Perhaps it is our job to respect that animals can have lives just as rich in meaning and scope as we do? And perhaps we simply treat our animals the best we can, with kindness and respect, treating them as if they do have emotion, without actually having to know the definitive answer? Just as we offer other humans the space to be and feel differently from ourselves, we can give that to our animals as well.

    Source(s): 10yrs vet tech, 20yrs RN (and counting) ABCDT, APDT Dog trainer, Animal Behaviorist
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  • 1 decade ago

    Good gawd this is a 3 mugs of espresso question.

    If you say that animals feel the same as we do is a overstatement. Yes I think they do feel fear, happiness etc but it is at the moment and in not the way that we feel. They do know that they please us like when a command is achieved and we give them praise, but they see it as a reaction to a action.

    Look at dogs that have been raised is puppy mills or other horrid conditions. They have lived in hell but they do not know that there is a better life in the sheer way that they immediately change when just the first moment of compassion, when we think that they would surely feel apprehension, hate or aggression to humans. A dog on the street does not feel sorry for itself they survive with what they unstintingly know to survive.

    A cow does not realize its impending doom as it is being led to slaughter. If the bulls of Papolna knew their fate they would be running like hell the other way.

    We feel joy, happiness, pain but we sense these things coming on and these feelings can be recognized for days to years later. Animals don't know what happened yesterday and they do not know what is happening tomorrow. Animals do not get horny they know by instinct that they are suppose to mate--that is not lust as we know it.

    I don't think there is a line between the two, we as humans know that the animals rely on use for their needs. But we know that because we as humans know these emotions.

  • 12345
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Lucky you. I read her book Animals in Translation. While it was full of interesting information it was a very dry read. Took me forever (from the person who can read a 300 page novel in one sitting).

    Basic emotion is based out of survival instinct. I do believe that dogs do have some emotions. I simply believe they do not have the complex emotions that we do.

    I also believe that dogs live in the moment, and do not dwell in the past.

    As to answer your question, I literally just rolled out of bed and that is way over my head. But I think that attributing emotions they can't possibly be able to comprehend is as detrimental as saying they have none at all.


    Just read the other answers, wow. Right on Rotten and Ms Manners.

  • Well if she thinks a dog can feel lust that would've been the end of our conversation...that's ridiculous. Fear, anxiety, joy? I'm sure they do...lust? Yeah...not seeing that one..."Yes Molly I've always wanted to be tied to you!...I've had a crush since before your first heat!"....not so much....

    Respect? Respect is something reserved for elders and those wiser than you in a subject you're interested in. FAIRNESS is something someone who's in OUR position (leadership) should show to our dogs. Admiration of their abilities even. The only "respect" you should have for a dog is that they're a large carnivore who's probably capable of kicking your butt, so act intelligently when dealing with them...

  • Lizzie
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Emotions are emotions. They are essentially the same. In the earlier days of psychiatry, dogs were used to study emotions, for work to be applied to humans. Ms Grandin is right.

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