They are called pet influencer and for a few years they have not stopped gaining ground on social networks. they are pets influencers; lovable, virtually impervious to controversy, and cheaper to hire than their human counterparts. jiffpom has 9.4 million followers on Instagram, doug the pug exceeds 3.6 million and Tika the Iggy the million. The three have in common that they are extremely cute, a gold mine as a business, and also that, although they are dogs, what their followers love is to see them behave like humans.
It is what is known as anthropomorphism or humanization of pets, that is, attributing to them a series of characteristics, conditions or qualities typical of people. The examples are too abundant and it is not necessary to go to the dogs of Paris Hilton, with their own mansion, or to the guests of D Pet Hotels, which includes spa with treatments for dogs, organic sweets, photo sessions or rides in Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Rolls-Royce. It is not difficult to see dogs, with perfectly healthy legs and joints, being walked in carts or in bags, dressed as people, perfumed or with painted nails. All of this, usually duly immortalized to be published on social networks, many times in the pet’s own account in which, also, speaks in the first person as if he were a human. On these platforms it is much easier to see a dog in a human attitude than behaving like what he is, a dog.
“Each species has its own needs, and a way of perceiving the world and communicating differently from how we humans do. If we do not take these aspects into account and we simply think that they are the same as us, we will be directly influencing their well-being, even if what we are doing is with great goodwill”, explains Alicia Torrano Cano, veterinarian, canine advisor and co-founder of the canine school. The Lemon Dog. Because normally the one who treats his pet like this does so believing that she is doing the best for him, that she is pampering him. According to human anthropocentric logic, dogs perceive the world in the same way that we do and, therefore, taking them with a beautiful coat, perfumed and in a cart so that they do not have to walk or get their paws dirty is to take care of them, even to provide them with a luxury . However, the real luxury for that dog is probably being able to roll in mud, run off leash, and sniff absolutely anything within reach.
And that is precisely what they are not allowed to do. “The most common thing is not to allow our dog behaviors that are logical for him, simply because they are not logical for us,” says Torrano Cano. Behaviors such as searching through the garbage, digging, exploring with their mouths when they are puppies or getting into puddles are completely logical and natural for them. “Does that mean I have to let him do whatever he wants? Of course not, but it is very important that we take this into account and assess how much we demand of them, how much we are willing to give up for them, how we communicate when we ask our dog not to perform one of these behaviors and what repercussions can have on their well-being or their development”, he says.
Nor should we fall into Manichaeism. Anyone who lives with a pet almost inevitably falls into a certain degree of humanization. Let the one who does not greet his dog in the morning and ask him how he is doing throw the first stone. A study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation in 2013, called Anthropomorphized species as tools for conservation: utility beyond prosocial, intelligent and suffering species, Due to its translation into Spanish, he finds that a certain degree of humanization can be useful for people to give meaning to their interactions with the non-human world, favoring empathy and a commitment to the conservation of biodiversity. “Many times, supposedly treating them as humans makes the person empathize with them and accompany them, for example, in situations in which the dog is very afraid,” says Cristina Aranguren, canine educator and creator of the school Heading Awen.
However, there are times when that empathy goes too far. Is that dog really comfortable dressed as Santa Claus? Do you like to wear a crown and celebrate his birthday with a lot of people? Does he really feel comfortable in a mall? Both experts agree that it depends on the dog and the situation. “In general, I think that environments with a high density of people and a high dynamism are not appropriate for dogs,” Aranguren points out. “Another issue,” she continues, “is that there are some who tolerate them, and even do quite well with them. But managing a situation or an environment well is one thing, and that it is beneficial for the individual is another.
It is important to observe the animal that, in its language, communicates whether or not it is comfortable. “There are very expressive dogs, and you can immediately see several signs that express discomfort: smacking, looking away, yawning, shaking their body, whimpering and even actively asking for help by climbing on two legs on us, or looking at us,” he adds. Aranguren. Another way, which may be less obvious to humans, is to escape: “There are dogs that can develop strategies to get along, such as taking refuge in an activity to abstract themselves from a situation from which they cannot get out,” he says. Aranguren. If the dog only wants to be with his toy while he tries to pose in the umpteenth selfi we can be before a strategy of abstraction. It is not very different from the human who, tired of being asked at a family meal when the wedding is, takes out his mobile and enters a social network.
The key, as with almost everything, is balance. It is not the same to subject a dog to an annoying situation from time to time than to do it continuously and without respecting his signs of discomfort. “The consequence is living with dogs that do not feel understood, with the repercussions that this has on an emotional level and on our relationship with them. When this happens, we find dogs that live in a state of constant frustration and with very high levels of stress on a day-to-day basis, showing difficulties in managing different situations or what are usually called behavioral problems”, points out Torrano Cano.
Those behavioral problems that populate the consultations of ethologists and veterinarians are, in a very high percentage, caused by communication problems between humans and dogs. We must not forget that they are not people, they do not communicate like us and they do not have to like the same things that we do. “We know that you are doing it with the best intention, but if we want the best for our dog, we must love him for what he is, a dog,” Torrano Cano stresses.