Behavioral problems

Treating A Dog Like A Human

Ameera Mills
By Ameera Mills. September 2, 2018
Treating A Dog Like A Human

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Do you know what it means for a dog to be humanized? Well, it is a phenomenon that has lately become more frequent and popular. This concept revolves around humans transcending our way of seeing the world to our animals. Treating dogs like children, dressing them up in costumes and celebrating their birthdays, may at first seem harmless and fun. But, treating our dogs like humans can actually negatively affect our dogs.

Do you want to know what dogs perceive when we treat them like humans? To find out more, here at AnimalWised we have decided to talk about what it means to treat a dog like a human. We will also be discussing the characteristics of a humanized dog and summarizing its possible consequences.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Doesn't Like Me


  1. What does humanizing a dog mean?
  2. Is it bad to humanize dogs?
  3. Is my dog humanized?
  4. Behavior of a humanized dog
  5. Consequences of humanizing a dog
  6. How to dehumanize a dog

What does humanizing a dog mean?

Humanizing a dog has to do with granting it anthropomorphic characteristics. This means attributing emotions, attitudes and worldviews typical to humans onto our canines. This doesn’t only happen with dogs, but is also common among other animals.

This does not mean that treating dogs as family or giving them love and care is a negative practice. The mistake comes when we ignore the inherent needs of a canine species by replacing them with human requirements. For example, disguising our dogs for Halloween may be fine for an occasion, but dressing your dog in clothes every day is considered somewhat of a questionable action. If there is no function behind the dressing up of your animal (weather), then we recommend not doing it.

This phenomenon of humanizing a dog often occurs when the dog’s guardian is ‘‘alone’’. This humanization has also occurred from a human’s eagerness to understand their dogs, often leading to false interpretation. A dog is not a human being and therefore should only be treated according to its own natural instinct.

Treating A Dog Like A Human - What does humanizing a dog mean?

Is it bad to humanize dogs?

Many people don’t quite understand which issues revolve around humanizing a dog. The main drawback arises when a dog is treated like a human being, as their basic needs are often subconsciously ignored. This can then result in behavioral problems, which are often only considered as simple ‘‘whims’’ and overlooked. So the answer is: yes, we recommend not humanizing your dog.

Although it is normal to feel tenderness and love for your animal, the characteristics specific to their species cannot be ignored. For example, preparing a birthday party with a birthday cake for your dog should not prioritize their socialization, education and play time.

Often, a dog which is humanized, is given unlimited free rein to do what they want. This can result in an animal that is difficult to control, in turn, introducing conflict in the home environment. It is necessary to find a balance between the love and care you give your dog and recognizing their instinctive needs.

Is my dog humanized?

The humanization of a dog is a product of their relationship with their family and how they are treated. Below we have listed 3 example to help you identify whether your dog is humanized:

1. Your dog eats the same food as you.

A dog that is humanized will often eat the same food as their owners. Giving your dog a bite of your food now and then, is fine, as long as the food is not toxic to canines. However, if your dog’s diet is constantly the same as yours, this needs to be re-evaluated. The reason for this is that a dog’s nutritional needs are different to that of humans. If your dog is eating the same food as you, not only will they lack their required nutrients and vitamins, but these ingredients might even prove to be toxic for your animal.

In this case, we recommend offering your dog a homemade diet. This diet will allow you to personally control and prepare your dog’s food with the help of a veterinarian. For more, you can take a look at our article on homemade food for dogs.

2. Your dog uses the toilet.

There have been some cases of dogs using a human’s toilet to defecate. As funny or as practical as this may seem, by doing this, a dog will not be able to relate to other dogs who defecate instinctively and naturally.

3. You treat your dog like a baby.

Dressing your dog as a baby or walking your dog in a stroller can be very harmful to your dog’s emotional development. Dogs need to explore and sniff their environment, they need to run, jump and take in their stimuli. If a dog is in a stroller they cannot do this. In addition to destructive behavior due to non-channeled energy, this can result in stress due to lack of interaction.

In addition, many people assume that dogs react in the same ways that humans do. The fact is, dogs hold different emotions to humans, and therefore react differently. For example, a dog can realize that they have done something wrong, but they don’t feel guilt. By understanding a dog’s emotions and recognizing that they are different to humans, we can begin to socialize and educate them correctly.

Treating A Dog Like A Human - Is my dog humanized?

Behavior of a humanized dog

A dog that is humanized will most often not respect house rules. A common example of this, is a dog that jumps onto the table when you are eating and/or occupies their owner’s beds or couches.

Aggression is also a common factor in a humanized dog, especially if the animal is used to getting what they want. For example, they will try bite or growl at you when they cannot do what they want. Usually, when this occurs, an owner chooses to reverse the action which caused this aggravation. This is however counterproductive to their social development.

It is also common that a humanized dog may show signs of fear and nervousness when in contact with unknown stimuli. Although fear is a normal emotion, it is important to understand how to manage it in a dog. Likewise, it is essential not to reinforce negative actions, such as embracing the animal when it is upset or angry. Instead, pet your dog only once it has calmed down. This action will allow the animal to reconfigure the specific behavior with positive reinforcement.

Treating A Dog Like A Human - Behavior of a humanized dog

Consequences of humanizing a dog

The abnormal education of humanizing a dog can result in serious consequences to their health, both physically and psychologically. Treating your dog like a human can cause;

  • Stress: which is triggered because the animal cannot satisfy its instinctive needs, such as running when walking or exploring its environment.
  • Neurotic-destructive behavior: when a dog cannot fulfill its desire to play it will most likely become destructive and adopt compulsive behaviors.
  • Socialization problems: a humanized dog is rarely allowed to interact with other dogs, most often because the owners think that other dogs might harm their own. As a result, this animal can become highly insecure when interacting with other congeners, not recognizing them as equals. This is reinforced in dogs that are taught to use the toilet and who wear clothes, as they are unable to decipher and understand the natural behavior of their own species.
  • Weight problems: humanized dogs tend to be more prone to obesity, as they are offered diets unsuitable to their needs. It is also common for them to gain weight because their caloric expenditure in exercise is less than the amount of food which they consume. This can also trigger other health problems, such as arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Anxiety: when a dog is used to spending all of its day with its guardian and human companion, it is becomes more vulnerable to suffering from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can result in diarrhea, tics and heart palpitations.

How to dehumanize a dog

The first thing to do when wanting to dehumanize a dog is to recognize and understand that your dog belongs to a different species to your own. That does not mean you should stop caring or pampering your animal, but it should always be done in a measured and appropriate way. Allow your dog to have the opportunity to have free rein to explore its own natural instincts.

You can begin dehumanizing your dog by introducing your dog to exercise sessions. We suggest taking your dog out for walks, jogs in the park, etc. You need to focus on making sure that your dog is socialized correctly with other dogs and animals. In addition, you must understand that your dog needs to follow a diet appropriate to its species and breed requirements. Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian when it comes to setting up an appropriate diet for your animal.

Educating a dog is also incredibly is important. This does not mean that you have to be strict or authoritative with your animal, simple set some adequate boundaries or limits. Guidelines, such as: not letting your dog sleep with you in your bed, will make clear to your dog that it cannot always do what it wants to.

If, for example, you a struggling to dehumanize your dog alone, we suggest consulting a veterinary ethologist. A professional will be able to analyze your dog’s personal case and treat it appropriately.

If you want to read similar articles to Treating A Dog Like A Human, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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Treating A Dog Like A Human