Anthropomorphism in Dogs: Your Dogs Don’t Love You

Doroteo family dog ( Simba ) sniffing flower.
Doroteo family dog ( Simba ) sniffing flower.
Emily Doroteo

A wagging tail conveying joy, mournful eyes speaking sadness, and an embrace from a furry fluff representing loyalty, but are you interpreting your dog’s behavior accurately? We might think our pets feel a certain way because we project our feelings and emotions onto their actions. This is called anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism is inputting human behaviors, traits, and characteristics on non-human things. Human instinct to relate to something other than humans can delude our understanding towards our furry companions.

Gary Williamson, a biology teacher and the science department chair at Golden Valley, differentiates humans and dogs as different species. Williamson states, “our brain is more complex, we have language we write and sing, we can do all these things, dogs can’t.”

Bongcayao family dog, Marley. (Abigail Bongcayao)

Human Emotions & Dogs
Williamson dives into anthropomorphism as, “thinking you know what a dog is thinking and feeling.” This can apply to anything– it can be a cat, bird, or a worm, where you think it feels the same way as you do.

He said, “A dog can’t tell us what it’s thinking and feeling.” For us to then say, ‘My dog loves me’, there’s no way to prove whether it’s true.

When asked about if dogs love their owners, Williamson emphasizes, “Your dog doesn’t love you. Your dog isn’t happy to see you. It’s not panting because it’s happy to see you. They’re panting because that’s how they cool off; they don’t have sweat glands.”

Doroteo family dogs, Nala (red) & Simba (green). (Emily Doroteo)

Human-Dog Relationships
Pavlovian response is one of the most famous imprinting done on an animal, Williamson said. Ivan Pavolv, an experimental neurologist and physiologist from Russia and the Soviet Union, is credited with discovering classical conditioning while working with dogs. When Pavlov would ring his bell, his dog would salivate. Over time, his dog came to associate the bell with getting fed.

Williamson elaborates, “When you’re training a dog, you are imprinting them with what you want to see. It doesn’t mean they’re doing or thinking what you want.” He further explains, “They’re just responding to the things that they need, which are food, shelter, and water. They come to associate things you do with their necessities.”

Abdon family dogs, Jia, Jax, & Jet. (Jada Abdon)

Why Does it Happen
Williamson discusses his rationale behind anthropomorphism. He believes, “They’re lacking something in their own life and they need that from their dog. They need to think someone loves them, misses them, or is depressed when they’re not there.”

He provides additional insight that people who project human emotions on a dog are likely to continue to do so, avoiding the hard truth.

According to the Scholarly Community Encyclopedia, anthropomorphism may be detrimental to a dog’s physical and emotional health. Studies propose owners who misinterpret appeasement behavior as guilt, mistakenly believe their dogs act destructively when left alone. This leads to punishment creating a distressing environment rather than comfort for dogs.

Overall, anthropomorphism is derived from a human’s need to receive empathy, although dogs are unable to communicate with us, they can perceive our actions, complementing our manners and providing an excellent companion.


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About the Contributors
Jada Abdon
Jada Abdon, Staff Writer
Jada Abdon is a senior at Golden Valley and one of the Community staff writers for the Grizzly Gazette. She's extremely attentive with each task. She enjoys partaking in music, fine arts, plus creative endeavors. Throughout high school she has developed an infatuation with science and writing defining her passion. She has been involved in CSF, National Honor Society, and has been actively doing community service for the past four years. She has been part of the Golden Valley Grizzly Marching Band all through high school. With almost a decade of musical experience playing flute along with an artistic passion she hopes to dive into the following themes. She believes the significance of a journalist provides a wide range of freedom, granting a voice for herself and bearing the responsibility to be as informative as possible to audiences. In her spare time she enjoys playing instruments, playing with her three dogs (two jack Russell and a Labrador), and tending to her farm of chickens.
Emily Doroteo
Emily Doroteo, Digital Editor
Emily Doroteo, paper production, digital editor, is in her Senior year at Golden Valley. Remaining curious about everything has led her here. Emily has always had great interest for a great story. Making curling up with a good book her favorite way to end the week. She enjoys dancing, music and finding small trinkets. A very adventurous spirit that loves any excuse to travel and explore the world. She is a Clarinet player (Yes like Squidward ) with the Golden Valley Marching Band and has been playing for the past six years. She enjoys spending time in our community and is actively volunteering for our local Henry Mayo Hospital. In her free time she enjoys spending quality time with her small zoo of two bulldogs and four cockatiels. As it is her first year in the art of Journalism she hopes to promote articles that embrace our colorful community. She is a proud student journalist that feels empowered to support all of our journalist voices.