How Dogs Make Us Better People

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Sydney Ross Singer

Medical Anthropologist

Director, Good Shepherd Foundation

There are a lot of things which I hate about people. I’m sure many people feel the same, and have their own list of things they hate about people. 

Let’s face it. As a species, we humans are a mixed bag. For every good trait we possess as a species, there is a bad one. For every human-made treasure there is a human-caused horror.

Thank goodness there are dogs. 

Big dogs, small dogs, medium dogs, dogs of all colors and breeds are Nature’s gift to humans. More than that, they are our saviors. 

What people lack, dogs provide. They are more than our best friend. They are Nature’s complement to our human nature. 

Without dogs, we would be too human. With dogs, we can become the best we can be as humans. 

You might argue that my portrayal of dogs is idealized. Admittedly, some dogs are as bad as people. However, assuming they were trained properly, in a way that respects their nature, they are ideal beings to complement humans.  

Here is my list of 10 bad human traits, and how dogs help us compensate. 

1. People don’t play enough

Sometimes, you want to play, and approach some other human to see if they want to join you, but they are busy with their own stuff and brush you off. We humans take life too seriously sometimes, and lose the desire to play and enjoy life. 

My dog is always ready to play. She can be asleep or licking herself intently, and all I need to do is ask if she wants to play, and she’ll be eager to go. So long as she is healthy, she wants to play. To a dog, life is play. If you want fun, play with a dog. 

2. People don’t show their true feelings

People are actors, so you never really know when they are trying to fool you. We humans are trained to say the opposite of what we may feel, and to do things, and say things, that we really don’t want to do, or say. Great emphasis is placed on the ability to act differently than you feel. The most admired people in the world are actors, who are essentially trained to fool people. 

Dogs never fool you. If they are looking hurt, then they are hurt. It’s not an act to get out of doing something they don’t want to do. If they like you, they show it clearly. If they don’t like you, they also show that clearly. When we are tired of people being dishonest or hard to read, hang out with a dog for some honest connection.

3. People have a hard time forgiving

There would not have to be religious instruction to “turn the cheek” if doing so was a common practice. Humans are a prideful species. Revenge and aggression are the usual ways people deal with insults and injuries from other people. Some people even hold onto a grudge all their lives. 

Dogs also get into disputes with other dogs, but typically get over it quickly. When things get too heated, they shake it off, and move on with life. When it comes to dealing with their disputes with humans, dogs typically give in, and will even apologize. It doesn’t have to have been their fault. Dogs feel badly when you feel badly, and want you to feel better. They don’t have human pride preventing them from saying they are sorry and that they want you to continue loving them.  

4. People rarely give unconditional love

The love we feel from others can seem temporary and conditional. People are often very insecure about their relationships, worrying, for example, that they will no longer be esthetically or sexually attractive, or that age will rob them of their desirability. People worry about others stealing their loved one’s heart. Given all the acting and feigning of emotion that humans can do, their relationships are built on uncertainty and potential dishonesty. Relationships are a social contract, especially marriage, and if any of the terms of the contract are breached, then the relationship can be terminated, along with any love.

Dogs have a much greater comfort with relationships. They don’t care how you look or how gracefully you age. If you show them affection, then they will reciprocate in kind. They will take as much love as you can give, and will give as much love as you can take. They don’t require any contracts or agreements, other than the agreement that so long as you give love, they will be there to love you back. 

5. When the going gets tough, people leave

Friends come and go, depending on your particular fortune at the moment. When times are good, you have lots of friends. When times turn bad, you usually find yourself alone. When you are under attack, don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue, especially if you are not paying them to help.

Dogs never need payment to protect you. They instinctively protect their pack, which includes you. Regardless of your dog’s size, he or she will be there barking for you, defending you against any sized foe. They will stay up at night, or sleep with one ear open, guarding you from threats. When all else fails, your dog will still be by your side. 

6. People are control freaks

Humans are domesticating the Earth. That’s what we do as a species. We humanize the world, and are now aiming to humanize the moon and Mars. We see natural boundaries as challenges to overcome. We want to control our world, and to control other people. We want to control animals and plants, and the genetic code. We want to control everything that is controllable, and thereby humanize it. And we fight among ourselves over whom is ultimately in control.  

Dogs are happy playing with you, or chilling with you. They have no ambition other than to live and be with their human. They are connected to nature, and through our connection to them we renew our connection with nature. 

7. People use too much technology

Technology is great if you want to get certain things done. But the problem is that we humans aren’t very wise with the things we choose to get done. Technology magnifies our ability to control everything, without giving us greater wisdom to control ourselves or best choose how to apply our technology. Our growing technology makes us a growing threat. 

Dogs are low tech. For them, it all comes down to teeth and claws and jumping. Not much wisdom needed, once you figure out what to bite and what not to bite. They have no interest in discovering new ways to bite, claw, or jump. They are not wanting to use doggie tech to take over the world or visit the planet Pluto, despite their belief that Pluto was named after a dog. 

8. People are worried about bad breath

Breath fresheners are big business, since our culture makes a big stink about bad breath, as though we needed more reasons to feel insecure. 

Dogs love bad breath. The more they love your breath, the worse it must be. As for dogs, they only have, well, dog breath, which is not bad if their teeth and gums are healthy. Dog breath is more like ho-hum breath in humans, unless the dog has just been cleaning out the kitty litter. 

9. People need to wear clothing in public

Clothing and fashion are ways we humans redesign ourselves into a more artificial form, which we find more appealing by cultural standards. Some of these fashions change body shape, and thereby change body function, often leading to disease. The link between breast cancer and bras is one example of clothing-caused disease. Corsets, tight shoes, neckties, tight jeans, and tight underwear have all been implicated in causing disease. Meanwhile, body image disorders plague women, and increasingly more men, as they fear exposure of their bodies to the judgments of others. Some cover their bodies in shame, while others display their bodies for reasons of sex-appeal and narcissism. Our personal natures are judged by the clothes we wear, which are also badges of social placement, income level, education level, and other social markings. Being free of clothing is taboo. We cannot exist in public without clothing, a type of textile-oppression. Our identities are part textile.

Dogs are naked, unless their human has dressed them with clothing. They are unabashedly naked, too. They lick whatever needs licking, so long as it can be reached. They want to be free of tight, uncomfortable clothing, or anything that gets in the way of their movement and of their licking and bitting themselves. And they don’t mind seeing you naked, either. You can do anything naked with your dog, even defecate, and they have no problem with it. Depending on what you ate, they may even have an active interest. 

10. People have taboos

Taboos are obstacles to intelligence. You cannot intelligently discuss a taboo subject. These subjects are usually about certain eliminatory bodily functions, such as defecation or urination, or are about sexual organs and functions. There are also taboos in how you dress, what you eat, and what words you cannot say. There are also religious taboos. We humans are guided, and blinded, by many taboos, most of which we cannot even mention without discomfort. 

Dogs have no taboos, apart from stealing another dog’s bone. That’s more an unwritten law of dogs. But dogs have no hangups about bodily functions. They don’t have dress or food taboos, and can bark at anything they like with no concern about censorship or of offending anyone. How liberating is that!

Conclusion

We all have problems as humans. As a species, we have been pretty destructive of  plants, animals, people, and the environment. We can make great food, send people to outer space, and invent great things like the Slinky, but we are incomplete without our canine better half. Dogs keep us grounded, and show us how to love unconditionally. They make us play and exercise with them, and always give us honesty and integrity of spirit. They forgive us when we abuse them, and help us when we are abused by someone else. They don’t ask for much, take life as it is given to them without complaint, and live simple lives being naked and without taboos. 

We all need more of that in our lives. 

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