As a college student decades ago, my Horse Training professor began the first day of classes with a profound physical lesson. He assigned one student as the “horse” and another as the “human.” The “human” was to get the “horse” to follow a certain path, perform an easy task, and ultimately to go stand in a closet. Easy, you think? Not so much when no voice at all is allowed.
So How Do We Cross That Animal/Human Communication Barrier
According to One Stop English, an English language learner website, my professor’s lesson hinged upon Total Physical Response (TPR). Coined by Dr. James Asher, an American professor in Psychology in the 1960’s, TPR is based upon the theory that memory and learning are greatly enhanced through association with physical movement.
Total physical responses, whether from animal or human, make up much of the human and animal connection. True, animals can and do learn verbal cues and reward cues. But how do we know our animals are communicating with us?
Your Animal’s TPR
Does your pet illustrate TPR? The answer is a big, resounding, “Yes!” YouTube is chock full of precious videos of smiling and pouncing canines or arrogant but purring felines. There have been entire books written about how to read a pet’s behavior by its body language.
Here are some other physical and “mannerism” signs that show that your pet adores — and/or practically worships — you. Some include more than just a physical response, i.e. yapping, barking, meowing, whinnying…you name it!
- Using that ubiquitous wagging tail
- “Smiling” or showing their teeth in a smile
- Showing excitement by running, jumping, wagging entire body
- Expressing excitement as soon as they see you or hear you. This includes everything from a subtle whine or purr on up to rip-roaring barking and meowing (or whatever vocals that particular pet has)
Here are some passive signs that show a level of love for you, their human-on-a-pedestal:
- Leisurely lounging near and around you and appearing carefree
- Acceptance of you “messing with” their food and/or treats
- Acceptance of you “messing with” their physical body, i.e. a tug on the tail, teaching how to “shake hands,” and/or wrestling
- Exhibiting a quiet acquiescence and loving submission by your side
- Exhibiting an ongoing drive to be near you whenever possible
Is a Dog’s Tendency to Protect its Owner(s) Instinctual or Trained?
This is not an easy straightforward question to answer, because many factors come into play. First of all, a dog’s breed will affect this attribute. There are herding dogs, working dogs, lap dogs with bows, and mixed breeds that take on inherent characteristics of their breed(s). However, beginning with canines in the wild, the “pack” theory is clearly dictated from birth.
According to the Animal Planet, canines must establish their place in their social group, regardless of the group’s composition. This sets up a hierarchy of subordination and leadership. Therefore, this hierarchy translates to dogs that pets are something akin to “He/she who feeds me may boss me around.” However, once they’ve indentified who their family is, a pet is likely to protect anyone in that family unit at all costs regardless of who feeds them. One may see this entire system of the pet showing their love in the form of protection.