I wanted to mention a book I'm in the middle of reading, which I highly recommend - I'll do a more thorough commentary on it in another post once I'm done. The book is by Temple Grandin (with Catherine Johnson), and is called Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life For Animals. Temple Grandin is an amazing woman - she's autistic and has chronicled her story in Emergence: Labeled Autistic. She is a scientist specializing in the brain and animal behavior. Her insights into animals and how they perceive the world are very acute, and she believes that some of her insights are because she is autistic and her perceptual and emotional systems may be closer to those of animals.
As any of us know who work with animals, they do have emotions, and feelings, and the ability to think to a greater or lesser degree - and this isn't anthropomorphism at all - after all we're animals too with the same basic brain structure as all animals, with a larger pre-frontal cortex on top of it all. In my experience, people who deny that animals have emotions and feelings, and not just behaviors, need to believe that because of how they treat animals. Every great horseman and horsewoman is always asking themselves "how does the horse feel about this" as he or she does the work with the horse, and pays attention to "feel" of the horse. It isn't just about training in behaviors, or imposing one's will on the horse, it's about having the horse "with" you from the inside so that's there's a partnership in getting the work done. Anything else is just training the outside of the horse.
The book is firmly science-based, but is easy to read and completely enthralling, whether you have horses, dogs, cats or farm animals. There are separate chapters for each, with some pretty interesting facts and insights. A couple of things to whet your interest: did you know that wolves (dogs' closest relatives) do not live naturally in packs in the wild, but in small family groups, and that their relationships aren't usually about dominance? Did you know that cats can only be trained using positive reinforcement, not negative reinforcement or social reinforcement (praise) and that it's possible to train a cat using clicker training?
And The Journey is now up and running, if you're interested. Have a wonderful late January day!