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Unit One: The Human-Animal Bond

This course is designed to take you on a journey of discovery.  You will be introduced to a variety of areas of inquiry into the heart of the human-animal connection.  


It will give you an overview of the exciting progress in the science of a deeper understanding of the inner lives of animals as well as make you hungry for more knowledge.

Scientific inquiry has come a long way since animals were thought to have no thoughts, feelings, emotions, or ability to experience pain. This misinformed thinking led to experiments and surgery on living animals -- without anesthesia.

We still have a long way to go still in terms of understanding the nature of the interior lives of animals.  With 9,000 animals a day being euthanized in American shelters, there is a lot of re-educating of human culture that needs to be done.

It is hoped that the students of this program will become better informed about the potential partnership of humans and animals and will help, even in some small way, to make life on this planet better for all species.




Lesson Overview

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This unit explores the Human-Animal Bond, the connection between animals and humans, historically, currently, and potentially. 


For example, in one book on our reading list, The Pawprints of History, Stanley Coren discusses how the evolution of human beings would not be what it is today without our canine hunting partners.

Today, dogs provide a wide array of essential services such as: Service Dogs, Cancer Detection Dogs, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs and Companion Animals for PTSD, and a variety of essential functions.

Partnering with animals changes lives.

Heifer gives animals to families and villages and this one change has signficiant ecocnomic impact.

Anthropomorphism -- the Boogey Man of Animal Studies

Anthropomorphism is mistakenly interpreting an animal's behavior, emotions, and responses from a human perspective, and assuming that an animal is feeling or thinking as a human would in that situation.


Even in human-to-human observation, it would be a mistake to interpret someone else's experience through our own lens.  We may or may not be right for example when we observe someone's body language of crossed arms and furrowed brow, and assume they are angry because we do that when we are angry.  In fact, that person may be concentrating, or confused, or experiencing any number of emotions.


Whether we are observing humans or animals, we must take care to evaluate accurately without overlying our own perceptions or pre-conceptions.  This becomes very important in studying animals, that we are dedicated to not allowing false human perceptions to keep us from really seeing what is going on in the animal world.


We are human, and we do see things the way we do.  The goal of this course is to continually seek to understand the world of animals from their perspective.


This is a discipline and involves having an open mind and a rigorous determination to observe and study without preconceptions preventing you from seeing clearly.


However, the intense fear of -- and accusation of being anthropomorphic has gone too far.  Jane Goodall was severely criticized and ridiculed for giving the Chimps that she studied in the wild names, and calling them her or him instead of "it" as was the style at the time.  She was brave enough to live and observe animals in their natural environments, and those who had never been close to a chimp accused her of being too emotionally connected.   






Jane Goodall has changed how we view chimpanzees, with whom we have a 96% genetic match.

When Jane Goodall releases a chimp into the wild, he first hugs her, before joining his friends in the wild. 

One way Goodall enters the world of chimps is through honoring their natural grooming behavior.

Jane G holds.jpg

Seek A Balanced View

In this course, we seek to find a balanced approach, based on discovering how best to enter the world of animal experience.  Several methods will be proposed in this course.  You may or may not agree with some of the more innovative approaches we explore, as not all of them have sufficient scientific validation.  However, we provide credible examples that use methods to gather information that challenges our current scientific body of knowledge about the inner lives of animals.  Yet, this information, on the frontiers of science can lead the way to future research which may support the validity of these non-traditional approaches.

Professor of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Temple Grandin.

Dr. Grandin entered the chute, holding her head at the level of a cow, and noticed what she saw (as a cow would see it).  Thus she was able to determine that there were visual distractions that confused and frightened the cows so much that they refused to enter the squeeze chute for their inoculations.  When these simple distractions were removed, the cows now willingly walked into the chute, saving time, and reducing immune-compromising stress factors.

For example, Dr. Temple Grandin was able to make major changes in how livestock is treated because she could see things from the perspective of the cows.  In one situation, where the cows were being too frightened and stressed to enter the chute for their inoculations, she determined that they were disturbed by loose chains, red rags or the dramatic shift in lighting between the outside and the entrance to the chute.  When cows are continually stressed they don't grow as well, don't produce as much milk, and don't gain the weight they need, and become much more likely to succumb to infections which can spread to the herd.  So the issue of cow-stress is both an economic one and a humane one. 


​​Dr. Grandin had the insight to do this because as an autistic person, she is very visually oriented, and deals with high levels of fear arousal herself.  She was able to translate her own perspective in ways that allowed her to perceive the situation as the cows did.  She saw the chute as they cows did.  This allowed her to correct a previously unsolvable problem in minutes and allowed the cows to navigate the situation easily.


Using an emotion that animals feel -- empathy -- (as we will read in the lecture of the work of Frans De Waal) -- we can gain greater insight as to the thoughts, feelings and reactions of animals using both objectivity and compassion.  This will result in better understanding and better treatment of all animals in a variety of settings.  This is the goal of this course, to strengthen the Human-Animal Bond.


 Half of the US cattle facilities have been designed according to Grandin's understanding about how to reduce stress in animals.

The Human-Animal Connection BLOG Lectures for Unit One:

If you are enrolled in this class here are your 


1. Read this Unit Overview

2. Read Two (or more) Unit Blog Posts

3. Answer the JOURNAL Questions Assignment

4. Take the Quiz (if you are doing for credit)

5. Then Proceed to the next unit:


Thank you for visiting the

Human-Animal Connnection Website

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