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Understanding Dogs

Understanding Dogs

Clinton R. Sanders
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Understanding Dogs
    Book Description:

    Can people have authentic social relationships with speechless animals? What does your dog mean to you, your understanding of yourself, and your perceived and actual relationships with other s and the world? What do you mean to your dog?InUnderstanding Dogs, sociologist and faithful dog companion Clinton R. Sanders explores the day-to-day experiences of living and working with domestic dogs. Based on a decade of research in veterinary offices and hospitals, dog guide training schools, and obediences classes -- and colored with his personal experiences and observations at and outside home with his own canine companions -- Sanders's book examines how everyday dog owners come to know their animal companions as thinking, emotional, and responsive individuals.Linking animal companionship with social as well as personal identity,Understanding Dogsuses detailed ethnographic data in viewing human and animal efforts to understand, manipulate, care for, and interact with each other. From nineteenth-century disapproval of what was seen as irresponsibly indulgent pet ownership among the poor to Bill Clinton's caring and fun-loving image and populist connection to the "common person" as achieved through his labrador companion Buddy, Sanders looks at how dogs serve not only as social facilitators but also as adornments to social identity. He also reveals how, while we often strive to teach and shape our dogs' behavior, dogs often teach us to appreciate with more awareness a nourishing meal, physical warmth, a walk in the woods, and the simple joys of the immediate moment.Sanders devotes chapters to the specialized work of guide dog trainers; the problems and joys experienced by guide dog owners; the day-to-day work of veterinarians dealing with the healing, death, and euthanizing of their animal patients; and the everyday interactions, assumptions, and approaches of people who choose, for various reasons and in various ways, to spend their lives in the company of dogs.Understanding Dogswill interest those who live and work with animals as well as those studying the sociology of human-animal interactions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0524-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Relationship between People and Pets
    (pp. 1-15)

    A few years ago in the journalAnthrozoӧs, the editor, Andrew Rowan, wrote an editorial defending the use of “anecdotal” evidence in building an understanding of the relationship between people and animals. In support of his contention that we can only fully grasp the emotional elements of this relationship by listening to the stories people tell, he described a luncheon at the meetings of the Delta Society at which awards were given to acknowledge the services of special therapy animals. Here is his description of one award:

    The final award went to a hearing ear dog. The owner of the...

  6. 2 The Everyday Dog Owner: Knowing and Living with Dogs
    (pp. 16-38)

    Of the encounters that people experience in their daily lives, those with companion animals are second only to those with other humans in frequency and importance. According to recent data from the American Veterinary Association, some 37 percent of American households contain an average of 1.7 dogs (over 52 million dogs) and 38 percent contain an average of 2.2 cats (around total of 63 million cats).¹ A study by the American Animal Hospital Association found that 69 percent of dog owners and 60 percent of cat owners say they give as much attention to their companion animals as they would...

  7. 3 The Guide Dog Owner: Dependence and Love
    (pp. 39-58)

    People with guide dogs are, first and foremost, dog owners. Like the caretakers of common house dogs presented in the previous chapter, they know their dogs as individuals and feel intense affection for them. However, because their dogs are, in a real sense, extensions of their physical selves, 1 their relationships with their dogs take on some significant additional elements. Most essentially, the dog is a “tool” that functions to assist the visually impaired owner in moving though his or her daily life. Dependence on the animal’s abilities, together with the almost constant interaction between the guide and the user,...

  8. 4 The Veterinarian: Caring for Canine Patients
    (pp. 59-88)

    Veterinarians, like all service workers, routinely categorize those with/for/upon whom they work in order to anticipate potential problems and devise ways of effectively dealing with those problems. Service workers make a basic distinction between those clients, patients, or customers who are “good” and those who are “bad.” Problematic recipients of service, in general, act in ways that impede the normal flow of the commercial encounter, limit the worker’s opportunity to gain financial or sociopsychological rewards, and/or display attributes that indicate some manner of character flaw or moral inadequacy.¹

    Like all workers involved in service occupations—from cab drivers² to surgeons³...

  9. 5 The Guide Dog Trainer: Understanding and Teaching Dogs
    (pp. 89-110)

    For many of us, the interactions between guide dogs and those who train them and between blind owners and their guides represent the ultimate in canine-human social exchanges. It is, at the same time, important to realize that the guide dog training setting is fairly unique and that trainer and owner interactions with guide dogs are relatively rare. There are currently fewer than twenty guide dog training programs in the United States¹ employing what the trainers with whom I worked estimated to be fewer than two hundred trainers. Further (or, perhaps, consequently), guide dogs are employed as mobility aids by...

  10. 6 Animal Abilities and Human-Animal Interaction
    (pp. 111-148)

    I sometimes tell my students—only half jokingly—that the basic principle of sociology is, “Well, you know, it all depends.” The point I am trying to make is that the interactional world which sociologists (presumably) are trying to understand is fluid and shifting. It is shaped primarily by the vagaries and uncertainties that come from the differing perspectives of social actors, the effects of different situations, and the ambivalences built into cultural definitions. As I have stressed throughout this book, one important issue of cultural ambivalence revolves around how nonhuman animals are regarded and,

    In the larger culture, this...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 149-176)
  12. References
    (pp. 177-196)
  13. Index
    (pp. 197-201)