So over the weekend I actually took some time off work and watched TV! Wild, I know!
However, two particular pieces of 'entertainment' found their way in to my working-mode train of thoughts.
Dogs Behaving Badly
Dogs Behaving Badly is a dog training show build around the self proclaimed Dogfather where Graeme Hall visits dogs with serious behaviour problems to 'fix' them.
Nice idea but unfortunately Graeme's methods are a decade out of date. He jerks leads of frightened dogs (I don't know about you, but being choked wouldn't help me overcome any fears), intimidates dogs, and gives advice based on the disproven concept that dogs are pack animals.
It is widely accepted in the dog behaviour industry that yes, wolves form packs which consist of a family unit where the alpha pair are the breeding pair (parents of pack members) but no, dogs do not form packs, they do not compete with us to become pack leaders, and no, unwanted behaviour issues cannot be dismissed as behaviours caused by this magical pack mentality concept.
The Girl With All The Gifts
Over the weekend I also watched 'The Girl With All the Gifts', a film about a post apocalyptic London where zombies run wild.
A young girl is a test subject of Glenn Close's character. She was born to a zombie mother and is the first generation of half zombie, half human beings. Close is a scientist trying to harvest this girls brain and spine to create a vaccine.
Close tells this girl that she is not alive, and her behaviours are simply mimicking observed human behaviours. This train of thought allows the child, and other half human half zombie subjects to be used for clinical trials.
Gemma Arterton's character however treats all of the children as children, and cares for the girl in a motherly fashion.
Toward the end of the movie Glenn Close's character is forced to accept that the girl is alive, which leads to the question, why is the humans survival a priority over the race of half human half zombie children.
What Is The Link Between the Two?
The incorrect belief that dogs are pack animals and therefore must be kept in their place has very much dehumanised dogs.
Bear with me.
Think about it
What does dehumanise mean?
I guess to stop seeing something as human.
But go further.
I believe that to dehumanise something is to believe that it doesn't feel similar emotions to us. That it doesn't suffer the same. Doesn't feel joy the same. Doesn't feel fear the same. Doesn't feel pain the same.
When dog trainers share outdated training concepts based on putting dogs in their place in the pack it dehumanises them. It makes it OK to jerk the leash of the 'dominant dog' because it has that non-human characteristic attached to it.
You would never choke a 3 year old child who is lashing out in fear of the dentist. You wouldn't continue to choke that child, or jerk on a leash around its neck, until it stops punching and crying. Of course you wouldn't. That would cause unnecessary suffering to the child.
But it's OK to do it to a dog?
Who is not suffering the same because it's trying to be dominant?
Except it's not.
It's highly likely to be frightened, overwhelmed, and panicking because it believes danger is imminent.
We need to stamp out the belief that dogs aren't little children because neurologicly, cognitively, and scientifically, it's pretty damn similar.