Most people like dogs and it seems that most dogs like people. But what’s it like to be a dog? That is the question posed by John Bradshaw in his best-selling book In Defence of Dogs. He is the founder and director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, and he has endeavoured to make recent advances in canine science available to a more general readership. The result is a book which, according to one reviewer, “every dog lover should read.” When Speak Up interviewed John Bradshaw we asked him whether the dog was man’s best friend:
John Bradshaw (Standard British accent)
Primatologists have done comparisons between chimpanzees and dogs, in terms of their ability to understand human gestures and body language and so on, and dogs outperform chimpanzees – which you might think of as being one of the smartest animals – they outperform them by an order of magnitude . They outperform them all the time and really dramatically , and not just kind of by a whisker. So they are our best friends because they have evolved to understand us better than any other animal does. I don’t mean that they understand us in the sense we humans understand each other. I think their minds work in quite a different way, but in terms of just day-to-day interaction they are incredibly sensitive to what we do. I’m not sure as to whether they even believe we have minds, whether they understand that we are sentient beings , but, literally, at the level of second-to-second interaction, they’re incredibly good at reacting to us appropriately.
They seem to live very much in the present with what’s going on in front of them triggering memories – of course, they don’t exist literally in the present – but not looking back or forward in their minds, but we tend to assume they do because we think they’re little people, or many of us think they’re little people, it’s a very easy trap to fall into , so what we’re saying is, you come home, your dog’s done something you didn’t want it to while you’ve been out, it’s probably done it an hour ago. The natural tendency is to punish the dog in the way that you would remonstrate with a child: “Look what you’ve done! You shouldn’t have done that!” Dogs don’t get that. They associate whatever the harsh words or whatever it would happen to be with your return, with what’s happening now, and not what happened an hour ago, and so that can just confuse them, it... certainly doesn’t help with whatever it was that they did that was wrong, whether it was chewing a shoe or whatever it was, it doesn’t help at all, whereas we think it does because it makes us feel better because we go through a piece of behaviour which we think is going to work, and we may even convince ourselves that it worked.
In this situation a dog may behave as if it feels guilty13 but in actual fact14 it is merely scared of physical punishment. And this isn’t the only misunderstanding:
They don’t often learn what we think they’ve learned. So there’s a classic demonstration done years and years ago of people who were getting their dogs to sit , using a verbal command, and then the trainer, who taught them how to do it, then said, “OK, what I want you to do now is to stand absolutely still and use the same thing and say, ‘Sit!’” And half the dogs had no idea! So the human thinks that the command “Sit!” is the thing the dog’s reacting to, and the dog has actually learnt something quite different. The dog has not appreciated that we are talking to them, the dog is saying, “When my owner does this little tiny thing with their hand, I need to sit down because that’s what I get praised for .” So I think they react to us in ways which we sometimes don’t fully appreciate. And so in our terms they’re getting it wrong: in their terms they’re being very functional, and it works, so why not?
SPEAK UP EXPLAINS
And not just kind of by a whisker.
“E não apenas ‘por um fio de cabelo’”. Em inglês, se utiliza a expressão by a whisker, que significa literalmente “por um bigode” e, portanto, John Bradshaw brinca com as palavras, já que os cães têm bigodes! Whiskers são “bigodes de animais”, já os dos homens são chamados de moustache (no singular).
It’s probably done it about an hour ago.
“Ele provavelmente fez isso uma hora atrás”. Aqui tem um erro: John Bradshaw está falando de um momento específico e deveria ter dito it probably did it an hour ago (utilizando o past simple e não o present perfect). Bradshaw é um professor universitário e autor de sucesso. Isso apenas ilustra que no inglês falado até mesmo as pessoas mais cultas se permitem cometer erros gramaticais sem necessariamente ser algo embaraçoso.
Dogs don’t get that.
“Os cães não entendem isso”. O verbo to get é conhecido por ter muitos significados, mas um dos mais comuns é “entender”. Por exemplo, diz-se to get a joke, para “entender uma piada”.