How Dogs Perceive Humans and How Humans Should Treat Their Pet Dogs: Linking Cognition With Ethics
Benz-Schwarzburg, J., Monsó, S., & Huber,L. (2020).
I have often thought about the power dynamic in our relationship with dogs, particularly relating to the way we 'train' them to behave in ways acceptable to humans, as well as the choices we take away (rights around reproduction, personal freedom, diet, death...).
As an animal lover this has always niggled my conscience and the huge ethical can of worms that such an awareness creates. What are the moral implications of keeping an animal as a pet?
This well-researched article discusses our relationship with dogs beginning with the early domestication of wolves 30,000 years ago, and goes beyond the animal welfare conversation to investigate this socially constructed relationship and "the duty to live up to the trust that dogs place in us".
Language is always important, and I love how these authors critique the term companion which they suggest indicates a mutual relationship instead of an exploitative one. After all, dogs are our property, right? In my work with veterinarians this is a common dilemma, where the patient is the animal but the client is the human, and the vet has to attend to the needs of both. Tricky hey?!
The paper brings an in-depth discussion into the history of dog domestication utilising a wide range of empirical studies on dog social cognition to inform how dogs perceive us, and how their social tolerance and social attentiveness has enabled this trusting bond.
They conclude that this relationship remains a fragile construct in light of the dogs dependency on her caretaker.
Relating to social work, this article sparks my thinking in so many areas where we use dogs in animal assisted interventions, the link between animal and human abuse, and the ethical dilemmas relating to veterinary practice where the dog has no voice in the interaction between owner and practitioner. I hope this ethical conversation becomes more mainstream and challenges our anthropocentric practice.
I acknowledge the FREE ACCESS of this paper: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.584037/full