Pi Attitude Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion

What Is The Job Of Your Dog?

Ever since semi-domesticated wolves started hanging around the cave-mouth, mooching for food-scraps, “man’s best friend” has been on a long, slow perceptual path to from fanged predator to valued companion.  More recently our favored mutts have progressed from doghood to ‘honorary personhood’.

Pi has learned that over eighty percent of Western dog-owners now regard their pet as a full member of the family.  Indeed, when you look at the money lavished on premium pet-food, plaid-pattern outdoor wearing apparel, fancy accessories, accommodation and medical care (oh, those vet bills!), the distinctions between our treatment of human and canine household members look like vanishing.

A recent book, “What’s a Dog For?” by author John Homans, investigates the ways in which dogs are increasingly being treated like humans.  The book concludes that, since the 1950s, we have witnessed a profound shift in people’s beliefs about “what a dog is”.  An increasing number of pet-owners get pretty close to saying dogs are people, just like anyone else. 

It may be coincidence that, in the same post-war timeframe, Hollywood has systematically portrayed dogs anthropomorphically, as thinking, feeling protagonists in “human interest” stories.  The trend has progressed from Lassie and Rin Tin Tin through the 101 Dalmatians and Tintin (“Snowy” is not only ‘human’, but smarter than most of the bipeds in the story), to animated characters like Pluto, Lady and the Tramp, Augie Doggie, Muttley, Scooby-Doo and the small-but-determined alien pooch in Men In Black.  Guided by these examples, humanity has decided that a dog’s life should be anything but.  They even get included in family conversations.

Pi was recently reviewing a consumer insight questionnaire fielded by a prominent Italian market research company, and came across the arresting question “What is the job of your dog?”  This is actually less silly than it sounds, since dogs are employed variously as security guards, pest exterminators, hunting companions, child-minders, beauty-pageant contestants and of course BFFs (Best Friends Forever).

On present trends, dogs will probably be given the vote in a generation or two.  This would make them a significant electoral bloc, counting one dog for every 1.5 households (as in America).

Note:  In the interests of balance, Pi also sought on-the-record input for this story from several cats;  but they declined to comment.

Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion Country: Multiple Geographies Product –