The Cognitive Dissonance Migraine

It’s been awhile since I’ve put pen to paper, but a few stories related to me recently have got me wondering about a lack of cognitive dissonance where it seems that is should clearly exist. My quandry is this; if you believe that a dog, or any animal for that matter, is intelligent enough to be taught complex tasks, then shouldn’t it follow that the animal has emotions that play a part in their learning?

Anthropomorphizing aside, I have to believe that animals of high intelligence have basic emotions similar to mine; including fear, frustration, and happiness. Yet time and time again I see and hear stories of those who seem to think that a dog should just learn in any environment despite fears and frustrations just because we command them to do so.

While I have to concede that for some humans, making them “face their fears by fire” so to speak, does work. It does so because they are able to understand the process in which they are involved because they share a common language with their instructor.

On the other hand, it seems to me that expecting an animal to learn simply because we discount, disregard, or don’t believe in their emotional state, should bring on a cognitive dissonance migraine.

Refusing to change a student’s (human or no,) environment so that learning can take place strikes me as either arrogance or a lack of empathy for the animal being taught. “Because I said so,” does not work for an animal that cannot speak.

I will climb down of my soapbox now and patiently listen to your thoughts on the subject. After all, we speak the same language, don’t we?





3 thoughts on “The Cognitive Dissonance Migraine

  1. Amen Kevin. I don’t get it either. Every once in a while I receive an email from someone who has recently adopted a puppy mill dog or a dog that has little to no socialization. I cannot tell you how many times someone has told this person to force the dog to do something because they need to be told who’s boss or they will “get over it”.

    As you can guess, I have a few choice words to say about the people who say things like that.

  2. At a conference recently I watched the film Hero Dogs of 9/11. There is no arguing the dog who spent hours guiding her blind owner out of a tower, and the search and therapy dogs who were there working for days were awesome. What surprises me is that people don’t seem to realize that their own dogs likely also have the potential to be heroes and are awesome too. They’re all dogs!

    So while people are more than willing to cheer on dogs like the ones in the documentary their own dog is being made to wear a prong collar or is being ignored while their owner has seemingly ‘better’ things to do. One of those makes me go ‘hmmmmmm….’ things.

  3. I’ve recently been having a conversation along a similar theme, a ‘gentleman’ thought that “the majority” of dog trainers/owners “worry too much” when they should just “let their dog(s) get on with it”.

    After further discussion with him, it transpired that he’s never dealt with a truly fearful dog, and is assuming everyone else has dogs like his (such as the sheepguarding breeds of Eastern Europe), and has know knowledge of how dogs learn other than what he’s “seen himself”…sigh!

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