I was told that back in a Sociology class and that statement sparked a little bit of discussion. There was no way I could let a comment like that go. This instructor obviously didn’t spend any quality time with animals and having spent my short life trying to rescue every living animal I came in contact with I had infinite experience that pointed otherwise.
The professor argued that all responses were simple genetic triggers. Yes, when you come home your animals come to greet you and are thrilled to see you, but she argued, even regularly abused animals will greet their abusers. Well there are also many humans who stay intimately connected to their abusers – does this mean they have no thought process? Animals ability to do tricks are strictly a response to a reward (Pavlov theory). But their willingness to learn requires a thought process. A link to a cue, provide a correct response, and receive a treat. While this is a “reward” technique it is also a technique attempted with humans; some who cannot seem to master the thought process required to associate a behavior with an outcome. While potty training, one technique is to offer children a treat each time they correctly use the potty. Even as adults, we are offered incentives at our employment to attain certain objectives – meet the goal of 90 accident free days and each employee receives 8 hours of PTO.
Last Friday I was laid off due to lack of work. My dogs are accustomed to the routine go to work, home for lunch, home for the night, bedtime, repeat. On days when I do work at home they seem fine with the change and know that no alarm = no being left at home. However it has been several days. Today after making my coffee, sitting down and getting my laptop ready to do some job hunting, Dudley jumped up to his favorite spot. He looked back at me as I was typing away on the computer and sipping coffee. And while I don’t profess to read animal minds, I am pretty certain he had gone through his thought process and was checking in with me to say, “really, your gonna stay home all day again!” I know my psychology professor would simply say I’m projecting. But it’s hard to not look at that face and be certain that he is trying to convey a message. I’d dare her to spend quality time with my animals and not begin to experience their way of speaking. Heck, my mother has a cat that politely requests company to move when they sit in her chair. The cat also makes request for mother to have “movie time.”