The very notion that a dog ought to have some autonomy over itself is an anathema to many self-styled “dog experts.” Many have been raised with the mantra that the dog must be subordinate at all times to the whims and often mercurial desires of man in order for it to live a nature existence. They have taken the ethological term known as “dominance” and stretched it into a kind of “drapetomania for dogs.” If a dog tries to assert itself against the absolute wishes of man, then it must be dominated at all costs in the same way that the runaway “suffering ” from Dr. Cartwright’s “affliction” deserved a good flogging.
The sad thing is that humans are prone to being egomaniacs, and far too many egomaniacs have dogs. In some ways, the fact that dogs can be submitted to human desires makes them the perfect objects for such egomaniacs to act out their pathology. Of course, they don’t just do it to the dogs themselves. They also do it other dog people. I have seen the dark underbelly of “dog people,” and although one wishes not to dwell on negativity, I have seen a lot of things that are utterly lamentable and are very difficult to expunge from my consciousness.
There are people who want to take away the things that actually give others joy. There are people who cannot appreciate an unleashed dog running about an autumn forest, who have never seen how happy a golden retriever is when she’s covered in mud, and who cannot accept the fact that not all dogs like doing what their ancestors were bred to do.
Some dogs are like Ferdinand the bull, Though descended from long lines of Spanish fighting bulls, all that Ferdinand the calf ever wanted to do was to sit under the cork oak and smell the sweet flowers. One day– which just happened to be the day that the men who selected the fighting bulls came by to evaluate the young bulls for fighting prowess— poor Ferdinand moseyed over to hit favorite cork oak for a good flower smelling session. As he lowered his haunches to the shaded ground, he just happened to sit on a bee, which of course stung him. Ferdinand raced around in terror and pain, and the bull fight men thought he was a great fighting bull and hastened to take him to the bullfight. The day that he was brought to be fought, everyone thought Ferdinand was going to be a holy terror, but all he did was sit down n the middle of the arena and smell the flowers in the women’s hats.
A dog may be of a certain breed. It may have nothing but trial champions in its ancestry, but all it wants to do is something else.
People hate this. If you buy a certain breed, it’s like buying a brand. And if one buys a particular strain, it’s like buying a particular model.
If you bought a car that didn’t do what you expected, you’d return it quickly or have it worked on until it finally started running the right way.
Many dogs have exactly this same problem.
People want them to be a certain way, and they aren’t. They send them to trainers, who do all kinds of “training” to rejigger the dog until it realizes why it was created in the first place. Or at the very worst, they get sent back to the breeder as a “defective model.”
Dogs are not machines, and there is a definite ethical consideration about dogs that simply does not exist for cars.
Dog culture celebrates the brand, not the individual, and it takes someone with a lot of intestinal fortitude to go against all the judgmental bromides and allow a dog to be.
Dog culture is not about letting a dog be. It’s about the dog being as a reflection of the human in his or her particular society. It’s in this respect that we have served the dog most poorly.
The dog that is too free is dog that is to be scorned. It exists beyond our human egos casting shadows into the ethology of dominance. It is unconquered. Still part wild, part savage.
It is the dog in its basic animality, still the ranging predator, still a beast.
And not a child or a slave.