The Urban Sextipede – LB outline 11/19/08

THE INVISIBLE PAW – Dog keeping in the modern world

Perceptual – We still rely on the dog’s senses.

Casual: dogs attend to human-relevant sounds and smells





Detection – drugs, explosives, cadavers,

Apprehension – police and military assistance




Psychological - The presence of a dog has profound effects on human experience




Social support


Loss of control leads to relinquishment – another assertion of control

Physical assistance of dog allows human to feel safe at night, on unfriendly streets, talking to strangers

Social – instant recognition between dog owners

Conversation starter

Dog affects how people see each other

Therapeutic settings – dog in counseling setting helps patient to relax and talk

Children, autistics, elderly show communication breakthroughs with dog

Physical – short and long term

Exercise and activity

Short term reduction in stress indicators

Long term health benefits

Where would we be without dogs? We could get along, many people do. Yet dogs play a very central role in human activity.

Dogs as pets: humans are flexible and would redirect their attention to other companion animals. Yet for all their benefits, other species can’t replace dogs in terms of social cognition

Dogs as partners: who would we talk to?


Dogs, like humans, are individuals, with quirks, personalities, and faults. Generally speaking, the traits below are typical of dogs, especially in comparison with wolves and other wild animals.


Varies by breed, but

Every species lives in its own perceptual world

Dogs don’t see the world the way humans do

Smell is central

Color vision muted

Hearing better at different frequencies

Pain – nonadaptive to respond too strongly to painful stimuli

More than the number of receptors, the relative importance of different modes or stimuli may be quite different for dogs. Movement outweighs shape, for instance.


Seeks help from humans

Standby mode – human-guided activity

Reconciliation – shared w/ other species

Cooperation – giving prey to human, sharing food

Gesture and pointing – chimps & elephants have trouble learning this, but for dogs it’s innate

Attention to humans & respect of human space (manners)


Dogs are meant to live with humans

They don’t really need other dogs for social interaction

Depriving a dog of ANY social opportunity is probably worse than for humans – little or no abstract thought, no stories to fall back on.

Depriving a dog of human interaction is also cruel, and contrary to NATURAL behavior

Dogs are not wolves, and do not survive well outside of human habitation.

Where would they be without us? The most aggressive and least human-oriented would survive, and revert to wild dog status.


Striding off together, independent and interdependent into the future.

How can we live better with our canine colleagues?

Society level:

Green space and public areas friendly to the sextipede – e.g. benches and easy cleanup for humans, plus safe running space and interesting terrain for the dog

Disseminate training and manners info, not just spay/neuter

Breed for companionship, not show. May require a new look at juvenile spay/neuter, and new ways to promote friendly mutts.

Integrate shelters with human institutions. Correctional facilities sometimes have programs for rehabilitating shelter dogs and horses. Why not universities? Dogs need human companionship – isolated dogs quickly become unadoptable. Teens far from home are starved for canine companionship. Take advantage of segregated communities and bring them together.

Reward well-mannered dogs – allow certified Good Citizen dogs into public places. (e.g. sticker on storefront indicates Good Citizens are welcome)

Individual level:

Select a dog responsibly: promote responsible breeding, not breeds

Recognize the animal side of your dog – his response to external events is not the same as yours.

Provide outlets for your dog’s wonderful talents.

Understand the power of emotional communication – dogs know what you’re saying more because of tone of voice, posture, breathing, than vocabulary.

Understand basic learning principles

Train the dog to have whatever manners are necessary to live with you. Never mind “heel” and “roll over”. Do command obedience if you enjoy it. Seek training to increase and improve the natural human-dog communication and awareness.

Encourage “standby mode”, via crate training or consistent non-response. The dog is more comfortable knowing when it’s “off duty”

Attention is rewarding – even punishment or anger. Many behavior problems come about because the owner unwittingly rewards bad behavior. To show disapproval, turn your eyes and head away, or turn your back.

Don’t be afraid to say “uh-uh” to bad or annoying behavior. The dog wants to be part of the family, and allowing bad manners to avoid “hurting the dog’s feelings” will lead to irritation and isolation.

Keep your dog near you. All of the above are ways of making that easier. Fenced-in yards are great, but leaving the dog outside alone for long periods is not kind. Invisible fences are handy, but putting the dog in the front yard, without visible “protection” is putting the animal in a scary position, required to guard the property without any assistance or company. Do you really want to train your dog to bark at every passerby, every child riding a bike, every potentially friendly sextipede?