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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pet Psychics

Don sends in a very interesting scenario...


What is your take on pet physics? We have a dog that we saved from the pound. She is about three years old and is an Austrialian shephard mix, red in color. We were told she had some "issues" when we got her and she used the house as if she had never been potty trained. We were told that she was house broken and cage trained, however that did not seem to be the case.She also liked to lick, which seems to be a trait of this breed. She was very shy around my wife but not around me.
We contacted a pet physic for help and talked to her on the phone. She ask us to place the phone next to the dog and she spoke to the dog. The dog immediately left the room but the physic said that she was now in the dogs space and did not have to be in direct contact withe phone. We ask her to find out about the dogs past. She said the dog told her that she was one of a litter of six and was very shy. She did not like to be held and as such was one of the last to be adopted. She said that she had lived in three homes and at the first one, she stayed in a yard with three other dogs, one of them was large and overbearing. The one she enjoyed playing with was a small white fluffy dog. She siad the dog was removed from that family because of some sort of problem between the man and woman. The second home was for a short time. (She was fostered out form the Humane Society)
The third home is where she is now. The reason she was shy around my wife was that seh sensed form my wifes movements that she ,the dog, might hurt her if she caused her to fall or something. After the dog was told that she did not have tobe so careful, she began playing with my wife. We also ask about her licking and the dog told her that was her way of showing affection. We ask he to tell the dog that we did not like that much licking and as result , she has cut way back on the licking. The reason for her use of the house for her potty was she was afraid that we would taker back to the pound. Since the physic talked to her, she has been like a different dog. She has not gone in the house, she is a happier dog and plays with my wife.
Most people scoff at the thought of communicating mentally with a dog but we have seen direct results form this approach.

Don, I have to admit to being very skeptical about these sorts of things. Numerous reports in the media have shown how phone psychics are completely bogus, and I have no reason to believe that pet psychics are any different. Most people who are "psychic" are actually very keen observers of human behavior. The USA Network show "Psych" uses this as it's main premise. The main character pretends to be a crime-solving psychic, but in reality he is extremely observant of his surroundings, noticing things that most people overlook. I've also seen reports on how people use subliminal cues, careful questioning, and so on to make it seem like they can read people's minds. In your example, I hate to say that I can see several things that a "psychic" could use to make you think they can read your dog's mind.

1. "
She said the dog told her that she was one of a litter of six and was very shy. She did not like to be held and as such was one of the last to be adopted." You have no way of knowing whether or not this is true, so the psychic can say whatever they want to. If they have enough assurance and authority in their voice, you are not likely to question them. The person could have said that she was of a litter of three and was the most active and therefore the last to be adopted, and you would have no reason to believe otherwise. Be careful when people tell you something that neither they nor you can prove. The fact that they "know" the information is of itself not a proof.

2.
"She said that she had lived in three homes...The second home was for a short time. (She was fostered out form the Humane Society)" I'll bet money that you mentioned something about having adopted her at one point in the conversation. An observant person would pick up in this and make some quick assumptions. If you adopted her, she must have come from a shelter or rescue group. That means she was given up by someone else. Most pets who are given up to shelters have only had one previous home. Therefore it is simple deduction to state that your home is the third one. No psychic ability needed, merely logic and a basic knowledge of shelters.

3. "
at the first one, she stayed in a yard with three other dogs, one of them was large and overbearing. The one she enjoyed playing with was a small white fluffy dog. She siad the dog was removed from that family because of some sort of problem between the man and woman." Again, you have no way to verify this information. She could have said pretty much anything, and if she sounds convincing enough who are you to doubt? If there was any way to absolutely know that what she said was true, then this might be some pretty interesting statements. Otherwise it's simply a nice story that sounds good.

4.
"The reason she was shy around my wife was that seh sensed form my wifes movements that she ,the dog, might hurt her if she caused her to fall or something. After the dog was told that she did not have tobe so careful, she began playing with my wife." Take a minute and think from your dog's perspective. She is in a new place with people that she doesn't know. We don't know what kind of experiences she has had in the past, so we don't know what will make her nervous and what won't. She has to learn you as much as you have to learn her. Any dog is going to be cautious in situations like this, and it's not easy even for a behavioral specialist observing the dog to give the reasons why. Her improvement can be simply explained by her becoming used to her new situation and picking up on your wife's body language.

5.
"We also ask about her licking and the dog told her that was her way of showing affection. We ask he to tell the dog that we did not like that much licking and as result , she has cut way back on the licking." Dog Behavior 101 will let anyone know that licking is a sign of affection. This is elementary knowledge of dogs, and something that most people know. Dogs are masters of reading body language, and if she detects that you don't want her doing it, she will stop doing it as often. Again, no psychic ability needed, merely an understanding of dog behavior.

6. "
The reason for her use of the house for her potty was she was afraid that we would taker back to the pound. Since the physic talked to her, she has been like a different dog. She has not gone in the house, she is a happier dog and plays with my wife." Now this doesn't make sense to me from a behavior perspective. One of the biggest reasons why dogs end up at shelters is because of housebreaking issues and eliminating inside the house. Going to the bathroom indoors would be MORE likely to cause her to end up at the shelter, not less likely. If she was really afraid of going back to the pound, then she should be doing everything possible not to end up there. I will also bet that you and your wife were working with her, rewarding her when she eliminated outside and punishing her when she went inside. That alone could lead to her doing better about bathroom habits.

You also have to keep in mind that dogs don't think or rationalize in the same way that people do. Studies have shown that a stimulus (positive or negative) must happen within 20 seconds of a dog's behavior or they will not associate the two. Getting mad at a pet when they urinated on your carpet an hour ago will not help, as they don't associate that wet spot with having done the deed themselves. So many of the things that this "psychic" stated about the reasons for her behavior simply wouldn't have happened, and goes against what we know of canine behavior and thought processes.

My opinion? I don't see anything in what you have told me that makes me think anything other than that the "psychic" knew about human and basic dog behaviors. I don't completely eliminate the possibility that some people may genuinely have strange abilities, but at the same time I think that the huge majority of people in these positions are charlaitans. I hate to disappoint you, but I don't see anything that makes me think this was a legitimate psychic person. Hopefully you can see some of the reasons for my skepticism based on how I have explained things.

Great question and a very interesting topic!!!

1 comment:

  1. I must admit I thought it was a physic like isn't that what you call a laxative?
    Pet psychic? Over the phone? No more need to be said, you got it right doc.

    ReplyDelete

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