It has been traditionally accepted (Weinstein & Barber, 2004) as self-explanatory that there is a lot human beings can teach their dogs. In their revolutionary self-help motivational book, Dogs Don't Bite When a Growl Will Do, Weinstein and Barber (2004) maintain that there is a lot too that dogs can teach humans. The book is presented in the form of a lesson plan whereby the thoughts and ideals of the authors are delivered in 67 different chapters or lessons. Each of these chapters or lessons is essentially independent from the other and offers its own distinct view. The core focus of the lessons is the idea that dogs are happy in their lives as compared to some of their human companions. Weinstein and Barber therefore want to guide their readers on transforming their lives into epitomes of fulfillment and happiness with lessons learnt from observing their faithful companions in the form of dogs.
Review and Response
The foregoing introductory overview shows that book’s main focus is happiness, more so, the happiness apparent among dogs and how it can be replicated by human beings as they go about their lives. The following is concise review and response of the main ideas proposed by the authors in relation to the objective of getting people to learn from their dogs:
The book hypothesizes that people can learn a lot through observation. This point is supported by factual notations such as that students can learn a lot from their masters simply by observing how they live their lives (Weinstein & Barber, 2004). This ideology is then extended to man’s proverbial best friend: the dog. In essence, the book first concludes that dogs are happy therefore becoming prime subjects of research into how this can be the case. People are never heard characterizing dogs are unhappy. On the other hand, it is common for people to say things to the effect that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” This conclusion thus suffices to form the basis of concerted investigations into how dogs attain and maintain their happiness as observed by people.
The happiness of dogs is also not dependent on external events. Dogs will still be seen to be happy even when it is raining outside. As a personal aside, this analogy is slightly misleading but the message is helpful. To begin with, dogs cannot be affected by external events like human beings, even if they wanted to. People, for instance, are expected to go to work or to school regardless of the weather. The dogs, however, can afford to bask in the sweet reassurance that someone else is taking care of them and thus assuming all the risk and hazards.
The only way that the authors are able to determine that dogs are happy is by observing them. This means that there are some clear behavioral patterns that dogs exhibit which are indicators of just how they feel. According to Weinstein and Barber (2004), dogs do not hide their feelings towards their human companions. Being pack animals, dogs are noted for their close kinships, which basically extend to their human companions. In principle, dogs are seen to be close with human beings because they consider them as part of the pack. One way in which dogs show this close association with their companions is by following them around wherever they may go. This is actually an indication that they love the company of their companion. Similarly, a dog will wag its tail and lick its companion’s face as a show of real affection.
For people, though, sometimes they find themselves in situations where they just want to be alone. As such, they strive to avoid any sort of company. This is indeed detrimental to the development of interpersonal relationships because it stifles communication which is the main foundation of intimacy. Similarly, people rarely show others just how they truly feel, regardless of whether these feelings are positive. The basic lesson to be learnt here, therefore, is that people need to express their love for each other more openly to let the other person know just how they feel. This will indeed lead to more harmonious and close relationships which will undoubtedly be translated into genuine happiness for all persons involved.
One of the strongest moral points introduced by Weinstein and Barber (2004) is that of people’s tendency to discriminate. This discrimination is not just limited to other people alone. Sometimes people are seen to discriminate against other breeds of dogs which they do not consider stronger or desirable. Sometimes people prefer only those German Shepherds cast as heroes and heroines in popular television programs. Weinstein and Barber observe that dogs do not seem to care about the breed of their counterpart dogs. They are to be found being friendly with all types of dogs, and more importantly, even human beings who are from a completely different species altogether.
This is a valid lesson on tolerance in the face of adversity, especially in the human scene. Human societies are quite diverse which translates into an equally diverse array of human experiences. Foremost, human beings belong to different races, regions, ethnic groups and religions. This then becomes a likely source of discrimination. Weinstein and Barber (2004) introduce a famous quote by Rita Rudner to illustrate this concept effectively. Rudner quipped whether other breeds of dogs consider poodles to belong to a weird cult. This is premised on the peculiarity of the poodle’s physical features. In essence, dogs do not judge either other dogs or human beings based on their physical attributes. Similarly, people should suspend judgment regarding others based on their personal prejudices.
Despite the seemingly obvious verity of the foregoing lesson, people can still have trouble living lives devoid of petty discriminations and unfair preferences. Nevertheless, the analogy of how dogs live their lives should be seen as encouragement to press forward with the pursuit for fairness and tolerance. An unfavorable critique of this analogy, though, is also possible. Some people might rightly argue that dogs are subject to their basic instincts much more than human beings. The latter has to consciously evaluate situations before passing judgment. Past experience dictates that particular groups of people have the propensity for particular patterns of behavior. As such, judging such groups based on such a prejudice might in fact prove to be beneficial. The example that easily comes to mind is that of religious extremists and fanatics. A person might be correct to judge such groups unfavorably for they inarguably seek to deny the obvious diversity inherent in human societies.
Personal Strength and Resolve:
The concept of courage and resolve is perhaps best epitomized by dogs. According to Weinstein and Barber (2004), dogs show just how committed they can be to their masters when the bonds between them are well established. This means that dogs tend to obey their masters without question at all times. Such loyalty, however, does not extend to the master’s friends, relatives or acquaintances. Weinstein and Barber in fact give the example of a personal case that demonstrated the extent to which dogs can be loyal. Trying to give orders to a friend’s dog turned out futile for one person whose requests went unanswered as though the dog had consciously decided to ignore him. This was in spite of the fact the dog was readily obeying her real master: the subject’s personal friend.
Weinstein and Barber (2004) contend that dogs never have the problem of having to follow two masters, especially when they do not want; they only choose to listen to their one true master and render other people’s requests unintelligible. The basic lesson here is that humans should also resolve to only follow one master. This means that people would be well advised to only pursue those objectives of particular interest. Such action might in fact prove to be useful in reducing the amount of time and energy wasted on fruitless pursuits. In other words, people should take play more active roles in the decision-making processes of their lives. They should not be led back and forth by impulses from outside. The authors reinforce this idea by reiterating that life is too short to be wasted on empty pursuits.
Weinstein, M., & Barber, L. (2004). Dogs don't bite when a growl will do: What your dog can teach you about living a happy life. New York, NY: Penguin.