Responsible Dog Ownership

Can dogs be Gay? I really don’t know but I seriously doubt it. I’ve read
about scientific studies where they determined rats to be gay. Meaning
‘gay’ as in homosexual. But I’ve never personally known or heard of
anyone that knew of or had a gay dog.

Perhaps because we neuter so many dogs (that’s a good thing), we don’t
see our house pets breeding, so most people don’t know what’s normal and
what isn’t. Most people don’t have any idea of the mechanics of dog
breeding behavior, so how would they recognize behavior that isn’t
normal? They probably can’t, but that didn’t stop some guy in Tennessee
from making the assumption (click here to see article) his dog was gay because it humped another male dog.

Then, according to the article, this guy dumped the dog at a shelter for
being gay, initiating an internet uproar of condemnation. I have some
thoughts on humping and judgmental internet communities, but let’s deal
with this guy first, then we’ll talk about the internet behavior and
humping dogs.

In all honesty, this guy did about the best thing he could have done. He
didn’t want the dog anymore. He assumed the dog was defective and he
didn’t want it around.

I fail to see how this is any more egregious than millions of people who
dump their dogs at shelters for peeing on the floor or pulling on the
leash. In fact, this guy may have had a better point. If the dog was
gay, you can’t fix that. You can fix peeing on the floor and pulling on
the leash. So this is point number one. Millions of dogs are dumped
every year for very simple, or no behavior problems at all, so what’s so
different about this one?

Huge numbers of dogs are dumped and/or destroyed because their owners
are simply indifferent. They see the dog as an object, not as a being.
When they’re done with it, they get rid of it. For these people getting
rid of the dog is much like throwing out an old rug, they are oblivious
to the rich emotional lives that dogs lead, and their responsibility for
that life.

So the moral outrage over the dog being turned in because it was gay,
rings very hollow. The implication is that not wanting a gay dog is
somehow much worse than not wanting a dog that isn’t housebroken. That’s
a judgement call I’m not willing to make. I don’t see the difference,
both classes of people are equally ignorant, this case is no worse than
the other millions of reasons, or lack thereof, for dumping a dog.

My next point is the man did the second most responsible thing he could
have done when he took the dog to the shelter. The first most
responsible thing would have been to find the dog a another home, but
seeing as the man thought the dog was defective, I don’t see how he
would have thought it right to dump the dog on someone else. Doesn’t
make sense that he’d do that. So this is the next best outcome. He
didn’t beat the dog, or shoot the dog, or abandon it to die on the
highway, starve to death on the streets, or be shot by someone else.
This guy gets a solid B+ in my book of responsible dog ownership. If you
don’t like it or love, if you’re through with it, at least take it to a

Countless numbers of people simply abandon dogs. Some people just turn
them loose, those are the lucky ones because they have a fighting
chance. They might find a good spot to land. The unlucky ones get left
behind in empty houses to starve or die of dehydration, or tied to a
tree and die of the elements. Compared with these people, this guy was
an angel. And compared to the dogs that are deliberately beaten, killed
or starved to death, this dog really made out good. He got a new home,
that’s the best possible outcome.

So I don’t get the internet outrage. Sure I see they may want to make
the point that being prejudice against gay people is bad, I get that.
Perhaps they’re using this situation to make that point so let me say, I
agree with them there, prejudice is bad.

But I also don’t think the people who are criticizing the owner of this
dog thought the situation all the way through. This guy should have
gotten a great big atta boy! Because, based on his understanding of the
situation, he did the best possible thing. On the grand scale of man’s
behavior towards dogs and taking into account this man’s beliefs, he
should at least get a pass.

The last thing you want to do is punish behavior that isn’t recognized
as being wrong. Because the punishment doesn’t teach good behavior.
Rewarding good behavior, however small, does work. It leads to learning
and more good behavior. Rewarding this guy for doing the right thing,
despite his thinking the dog was defective, would have been the right
message to send. If you want people to act responsibly, reward them and
praise them when they do just that. And that’s the issue I would take up
with his critics.

This guy gets a better grade for responsibility than the people
expressing moral outrage. He did the responsible thing, the internet
community had the opportunity to do the responsible thing and mostly
failed. They could have recognized the reality of what happens when
people no longer want a dog and encouraged others to follow the
responsible path. But that was rejected in favor of condemnation. Which
is exactly the same thing the dog owner did, punished and rejected that
which wasn’t understood.

The uproar did publicize the plight of this dog however and he got a new
home, so that qualifies as overall success for this one story. My hope
is the vitriol which surrounded this episode doesn’t motivate others to
dump dogs on the street as opposed to risking internet vilification for
taking a dog to a shelter.

Having said all this about ignorant and intolerant behavior on both
sides of this issue, back to humping behavior in dogs.

It’s no indication of sexual preference. Dogs, both male and female,
hump other dogs, both male and female. It’s a behavior we see all the
time when dogs get together. It just happens, and it happens without any
initiation of sex. It’s not foreplay or romance or anything of the kind,
it’s just rude and provocative.

In the trainer world, we see humping behavior as sometimes dominance,
sometimes play behavior, sometimes to provoke a response from another
dog or test the other dogs tolerance for obnoxious behavior, but not
much else. So on this point, the man who gave the dog up, was almost
certainly wrong about it’s sexual preference.