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.