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A Bill Of Rights for Dogs

If dogs could speak, what would they ask of us?  The new science of dog behavior can lend dogs that voice.  It has revealed both what they are and what they need from us, in unprecedented detail.  If dogs could construct their own Bill of Rights, it would read something like this:

1.           We are dogs, not wolves. We have lived with mankind since you were hunter-gatherers, and are now no more or less domesticated than you are. We assert the right to be treated as ourselves, and not as any kind of wild animal.

2.          We assert the right to have our perceptions of the world taken into account, especially where our senses are superior to yours.

3.          We assert the right to have our feelings, which are real if unlike yours, allowed for and comprehended. We are neither inferior humans, nor senseless robots.

4.          Our mental capacities are considerable, but again different from those of mankind. We assert the right to be understood by our owners, who should not expect us to comprehend every word they say, nor presume that we learn as human children do.

5.          We assert the right to be taught how to cope with the world of man. For although we are the product of your world, we are not born to understand it, and need to be introduced gradually, with care and with kindness.

6.          Our language is rich and sophisticated. We assert the right to be comprehended, in the same way that we attempt to comprehend you.

7.          We are fundamentally social animals, and we assert the right to the company of our own kind.

8.          We are domesticated animals, and assert our right to the company of humans. If we are to be left on our own, we need to be trained to cope with that isolation.

9.          We are individuals, each dog with its own personality. We therefore assert the right to be judged on our own merits, and not according to the reputation of breed or type.

10.        We have served mankind faithfully for tens of thousands of years.  Whilst we are born to serve, we assert the right for our needs and our dignity to be respected in all the capacities, both traditional and novel, that humanity may require.

11.         We assert our right to a future. Having adapted our bodies and our lives to your needs, we have forfeited much of our capacity for independence. We therefore require mankind’s assistance as we meet the future together.

From John Bradshaw New York Times bestselling author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (Basic Books; 2011).

Updated 6/21/11 at 11:36am PT.

John Bradshaw is New York Times bestselling author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behaviour Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. Dog Sense
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Submitted by Jennifer Schulting | June 17 2011 |

It's time to order this book.

Thanks for sharing this. Ever since Patrick's story it has opened my eyes to animal abuse and their rights. It's fueled my drive to help in anyway to change the laws against those that abuse these precious animals.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 18 2011 |

11. We are dogs, not surrogate humans.

To construct a list of rights as if dogs were capable of near-human cognition is to mock, denigrate, or negate the sanctity of individual rights.

Submitted by Brentitude | June 20 2011 |

Dear Anonymous, my dog *is* capable of near-human cognition. What's your point?

Submitted by Celeste | June 21 2011 |

I take it you only mean 'individual' as on humans only. Are you saying to consider animals as anywhere near as important to humans is mockery? I certainly hope you are not. 'All Gods creatures except some are more equal than others' ??

Submitted by Carl French | June 18 2011 |

Well done and well said. Amen.

Submitted by Lena Blom | June 19 2011 |

Wonderful article !
We , as humans once choose the ancestor of our beloved dogs to share our lifes and we changed their behaviour and skills and they brought something that developed us too . Our road are entwined and We have the full responsibilty to treat them well.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 19 2011 |


Submitted by justme | June 20 2011 |

@Anonymous: One has nothing to do with the other. All God's creatures deserve to be treated with kindness, that's all this article is saying.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 20 2011 |

All animals have rights not just domesticated ones. Wolves, whales, chickens all of them. They are all OUR ANIMALS and should ALL be protected and treated with respect.

Submitted by lauren--desmond... | June 21 2011 |

i adore this little article and have recently started reading John's book--it's already completely enthralling. i have to keep stopping to look down or over at my furry son, desmond, in awe. very excited to continue through the book! my husband and i are currently thinking about getting a furry daughter to keep desmond company while we're out of the house, and this is making me want to do so even more.


Submitted by Susan | July 29 2011 |

Get your son a friend, daughter. We did and don't regret it a bit! He/they, are happy, love each other, have very different personalities but love toplay and cuddle with each other. We got our daughter, Latifah, when we were both still working. Our son, Bumper, was so sad to see us go. We're both retired now and enjoy hanging out with them and taking them with us when we can, but it's great to know that when we can't, they have each other and will not be truly alone.

Submitted by dianakc74 | September 28 2013 |

I totally agree with you, we got a playmate for our dog and now we have 3 total and when we leave, they get a little bummed but they have each other and they are inseparable, we are one big happy family. :)

Submitted by Evelyn | June 22 2011 |

We assert the right to be treated as one of the family since you chose us to live with you as family. To be groomed, fed regularly have access to water 24-7-365, not left in any situation which is beyond our control and could be dangerous to our well being. Don't leave us in hot cars, chained up 24 hrs a day and remember we rely on you for our well being. If you cannot treat us as "One of the Family", please give us to someone who has some brains and can Love us.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 1 2011 |

All fine except for "man" and "mankind" -- haven't we moved past that and now commonly use "human" and "humankind"?

Submitted by Anonymous | July 1 2011 |

How about adding the right to express their love for us and to receive it in return.

Submitted by Taminator | July 1 2011 |

Dear Anonymous,

I find your comments interestingly negative and fail to comprehend your reasoning. This is a fabulous article reminding us of our God commissioned responsibilities to all animals and particularly those we have domesticated and modified. God set us up to "Have Dominion over the beasts"; however upon researching God's word in it's original language that word "dominion" means to care for, entrusted with care, care with respect and love, wise steward, etc. The definition is rather lengthy and quite enlightening. Additionally, the script of God's word during creation states that ALL the creatures were created "Having a living soul". It is our duty to care for them with the utmost love, respect and responsibility we possess. Our creator entrusted them to us, so yes we can liken them to a form a "humanity". This article was provided to remind us of the rights of all living things, not just people. And if you truly wished to express valid counterpoints instead of inciting Devil's Advocate aggravation, you would at least have to spine to include your name instead of hiding behind "Anonymous". Be well, be blessed and let us all reflect on the great reminder this article has given us. Thank you Mr. Bradshaw for that reminder and continue your positive work.

Submitted by Emily | January 6 2013 |

What about first amendment rights... freedom of speech? My neighbors call the police every time my dog barks. He is not an annoyance barker. He never barks more than three to six barks and only when there is movement on the hill behind our house. Barking is canine communication. They are alerting their humans something is not right. My dog is a service dog, 99% of the time he is at my side. I have been told I must put a bark collar on him. This is the most ridiculous inhumane request. I do NOT allow my dog to bark uncontrollably. I let him out a few times a day for some exercise and to relieve himself. If he barks I get up and see what he is barking about and let him in. 9 out of 10 times it is because someone is on the hill behind the house. One night he did bark and would not come in. I was at my wits end and forced him in the house. Ends up someone was breaking into the car next door to me, the very neighbor who calls the police every time he barks. I no longer let him out at night alone. I am disabled and it is difficult for me to have to get up and go out with him during the night. Funny thing is it is not usually even my dog barking. I live in a residential area with several multiple pet homes. Give dogs a break, people.

Submitted by Flynn Hoadley | February 26 2013 |

Very interesting topic here in your site. Keep on posting this kind of topics. Very useful indeed.

All the best,

Flynn Hoadley
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