Dogs

2006-09-11

in Canada, Daily updates, Travel

Neal Lantela and Lauren Priest

A visit to Nick’s house today reminded me of an odd (and self-reinforcing) canine behaviour. Namely, dogs seem to sense which people like members of the species Canis lupus familiaris and which people fear them, then react so as to strengthen that response in the person experiencing it. They drool and wag their tails at the dog lovers and exude all manner of ill-will towards the wary. Ever since being bitten several times as a humble North Shore News delivery boy, I have had a strong dislike for all dogs that are not manifestly harmless. I don’t mean the growling beasts that clueless owners tell you are ‘harmless’ as they champ at the bit to disembowel you: I mean dogs that are small, awkward, and preferably mostly blind. To me, other dogs are full of malice and aggression.

As such, Nick’s new dog J.D. decided to stake out the front gate to their house and snarl, pressing toothy mouth between chain-link strands, when I approached. Wandering over to Jonathan’s, his dog buddy bared its teeth in equal menace and prompted a cautious, backwards, step-by-step retreat. Eventually, I managed to flank J.D. and enter Nick’s house by a different gate.

While it may be a stereotype to say that cats are clever, independent, elegant, and aloof while dogs are stupid and playful, it is one that has more than a bit of a truthful basis. Personally, I would be quite happy to never see a member of the latter species again.

PS. Please note that these pictures have nothing to do with the posts in which they are embedded. They are just nice portraits from CF2 that I wanted to include in the blog. The very best photos will appear on Photo.net once I get my lovely Mac back.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben September 12, 2006 at 8:51 am

Personally, I’d agree, though Plato says dogs are philosophical: “a pedigree dog naturally has a character of thi sort – he is gentle as can be to those he’s used to and knows, but the opposite to those he doesn’t know” (Rep 375d-e)

B September 12, 2006 at 11:02 am

Cats are bloody arrogant. Dogs may bite fearful idiots, but they are loyal and clever in useful ways.

Jessica September 12, 2006 at 6:17 pm

My cats are not the least bit arrogant. They’re shameless attention whores, happy to flop at the feet of visitors and solicit belly rubs.

I rather like dogs as well. I don’t think there’s any truth to those stereotypes, any more than there is truth to stereotypes about humans. My cat Marta is not very bright, rather clutzy and extremely needy (she will cry inconsolably if there is a closed door between us).

It is likely your stiff, fearful posture is being interpreted as aggression, and when you’re approaching a strange dog’s territory with an aggressive posture, that sort of reaction is natural. Of course, it’s also possible that J.D. just has poor manners, in which case shame on Nick for leaving him unattended in the yard. The nice thing about dogs is that they have a pretty well understood vocabulary of body language. You can learn to interpret that language and also to hack it.

While you’re under no obligation to like dogs, overcoming your phobia is a good idea. You live in a world where dogs are companions, and knowing how to get along with them is helpful. This book would be a good start.

Milan September 12, 2006 at 11:16 pm

Jessica,

Thanks for all the information. Devising some mechanisms for dealing with canine beasts in those instances where doing so is necessary is probably wise.

ANON September 13, 2006 at 7:55 pm

The expressions here are nice, but the photo doesn’t really scale up to this size well.

Milan April 27, 2017 at 8:43 pm

It’s sometimes tempting to feel like little has changed in my experience of the world while I have been writing this blog, but this post provides an example to the contrary.

I still believe that dogs have an unfortunate tendency to be aggressive toward people who are afraid of them, but I have long since learned how to behave in a way that makes almost every dog respond with affection and interest. A few still ignore me and a tiny minority will still become suddenly aggressive when appropriately approached, but these days I seek out contact with dogs because I enjoy their companionability and emotional transparency.

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