The Science of Dogs documentary raised a lot of emotional conflict for me. First and foremost, I was surprised at how easy it is for humans to control dogs’ appearances and behavior, especially compared to other species. The fact that even with such diversity, all breeds are very similar in DNA, proves how vulnerable the animals are to our manipulation. I know it has a lot to do with their genetic makeup, but I also wonder if time is a factor. Society has spent years and years practicing eugenics; it’s had a great deal of time to experiment and test dogs. If that much time were spent with a different species, would society find similar ways to alter appearance and behavior? Would eugenics advance even further?
I was a bit upset to realize how substantially dogs are victimized. For better or for worse, we are completely warping their species, mostly for our benefit. And while we can distinguish their barking based on mood (another fascinating note from the video), this vague “speaking” is not enough to grant us permission to control their species. This being said, I also must point out how much it has helped the human race. We have a fairly reliable way to detect explosives in an airport setting. We have seeing-eye dogs to help the blind, hunting dogs to help us catch game and pests, and have discovered cures for our own diseases. So if we use eugenics for the improvement of mankind, and still show love and appreciation for our pets, I don’t think it’s realistic to fight against this manipulation.
What can be argued, however, is the breeding based purely on appearance and ability. Yes, people love entering their pets in competitions and collecting those blue ribbons, but we all saw it in the film Best in Show: these people can get out of hand. Must we alter a dog’s DNA just so he can jump further or look cuter? Unless the ability to leap can get the dog out of a life-threatening situation, I don’t see the point. However, I admit that I adore tiny dog breeds. I am definitely a cat person and have never much cared for large dogs. But Pomeranians and Maltipoos are an entirely different story. And my validation is simply happiness. Playing with and caring for these small, fluffy balls of fur brings me joy. But is that argument enough? I guess in order to fight for or against dog breeding, we must determine what constitutes importance. There is evidence to support that animals provide emotional support, which is why they visit hospitals and nursing homes. But while bringing a large dog into my hospital room would do more harm than good, I would feel comforted with a tiny breed. Science of Dogs raised a lot of great questions, but one thing’s for certain: there have been great benefits of manipulating the species.
-Brenna Thummler, Jan. 22 2015