Just How Human is Your Pet?

There’s been quite a bit of controversy going on between dog behaviorists, pet owners, and scientists as to whether animals, and dogs in particular, have emotions. Just how human are they? Some studies suggest that their behavior is mostly instinct, developed over thousands of years of breeding and association with humans. It was a pretty smart move by that first group of wolves who decided that hanging around with humans was infinitely preferable to hunting and scrounging around for food. But then again, cats never developed the same type of relationship and they have done pretty well too.
Recently there was a program on cable TV that featured an unusually smart Doberman. He was a rescue dog that was adopted by a woman who gave him several plush stuffed toys to play with. Instead of chewing on them like a normal dog would do, he started arranging them into groups in the back yard. He made circles and semi-circles, triangles, and other geometric shapes with them. She bought him more toys and then he started arranging them by category. All the stuffed monkeys were put together, all the frogs, etc. Every day he would go out into the yard and check on the arrangement of the toys and sometimes he would change them. The owner was flabbergasted when one day, after she had hugged him for the first time, he arranged several of the toys with their arms around each other. Pretty amazing.

The woman contacted a couple of dog behaviorists who were skeptical at first, but then one of them set up cameras and actually observed the dog doing this. So either this is a good indicator that the dog is trying to express himself emotionally or the only other possible explanation is that since nothing is known of the dog’s history, maybe his previous owners taught him how to do this and he really doesn’t know what he is doing. It’s just a trick that he learned. But even if that is the case it’s amazing that he is able to differentiate between the different shapes and types of stuffed animals. Makes you think.

I really can’t say which is the case, but I use this example to illustrate how much we WANT our pets to be just like us. And if you believe the dog behaviorists that fall into the camp of the popular cable TV show host and author, Caesar Milan, making our pets human can be detrimental to their psyche. He claims that a lot of the behavioral problems with some dogs can be traced to their human owners not treating them like dogs.

If you take a stroll through the Internet or walk into a pet store nowadays, you’ll see that there is a multi-billion dollar business in pet products to make them seem more human.

The Pup-Casso Painting Kit ($25) at has nontoxic paints and a paw protector to help your pet express himself artistically. Then you can frame it and put the painting on your wall. Who knows, it may be worth millions a few hundred years from now when we genetically engineered dogs to be as smart as we are.

Natural Ultramix with “Paw Made” Designer Doggie Label. ($25/six cans). Here you can take a glamour shot of your dog, upload it to the website and in a few weeks you’ll have a set of “private label” doggie food to show off to your friends or when he has other dogs over for a party.

ABERCROMBIE amp; BITCH TEE SHIRTS www.coolpetstuff.com $24.95 and up. These designer shirts will make your pooch the belle of the ball.

For the more masculine dog that is into sports the B-Ball shirts, also at www.coolpetstuff.com are just the trick. The heavyweight B-Ball tanks snap along the bottom and feature a bright yellow 34 on the back, though I’m not really sure what that number means, I know that your pooch will love it when he plays basketball with you.

If your dog’s lifestyle reminds you more of that of a rock star. (Drinks and eats too much and sleeps past noon) then you can shell out about $135.00 for this Rock Star Pup ID Collar. Made out of quality leather, these collars are black on one side and white on the other. Features porthole buttons that read: Rock Star, Love, and Top Dog. They also have a couple of skull charms attached. Keith Richards, eat your heart out.

And finally, a company over in Japan has developed a line of organic pet hair dyes. Get a Poodle of a different color when you dip him in these bright fluorescent dyes. But beware; you may just be tempted to dye your own hair the same psychedelic colors so you both match. So go ahead, dress up your dog, get him some jewelry and a dye doo. He won’t even know that he looks silly. Or will he?

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