[lit-ideas] Re: Can't have a gun? Get a dog

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2006 22:23:21 -0700

Andreas wrote:

Well, the dogs in India haven't been told about this.

The dogs in India don't challenge you at all. They act just like everyone else in India: they mind their own business.

I noticed all of this, because it seemed odd to me. If you put a few thousand dogs on the street in Palo Alto, the dogs would act like we expect them to act. But not in India. Maybe this has to do with the way American dogs are brought up. Or maybe the Indians are right and there's reincarnation, and these are Buddha dogs.

But for whatever reason, the dogs in India don't behave in the ways that Americans expect dogs to behave.

Interesting. Two things. It's now an article of faith that since dogs are simply domesticated wolves (canis familiaris being a sub-species of canis lupus) what goes for wolves goes for dogs without qualification. I've always been suspicious of this as a generalization that admits no interesting exceptions. All of the talk about 'alpha dogs,' etc., derives ultimately from studies of wolf packs.

It may be that in India, there are so many homeless dogs that they don't form packs for whatever reason. But another reason might be that when dogs and humans live together (Lawrence and his dogs, e.g.) a pack is then formed in which one or the other of its members will end up 'alpha' and the rest engaged in a quiet or noisy contest for runner up.

Whether a dog on the street challenges you is irrelevant to the problem of whether at home you or Rover will lead. The dogs (mostly Labs and wild eyed Cocker Spaniels) who challenge me as I pass on the sidewalk are dogs who think misguidedly that I want their turf, 'their turf' being their house, porch, deck, or lawn. In India, dogs may not need to protect their turf because they have none.

Robert Paul
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