Dog Culture is Religion and Politics

Enough dogma, throw the disc.

Enough dogma, throw the disc.

It’s an often reiterated rule of etiquette to never discuss religion or politics in polite company.  And this is why etiquette is for pussies.

See, “religion and politics” are essentially stand-ins for weltanschuuang – a larger world view that incorporates philosophy, values, and ethics.  The big IMPORTANT things in life unless you’ve tuned out and decided to just get by and let other people do your heavy lifting for you.

The dog world is inherently religious and political and thus any meaningful discussion of the culture is bound to be controversial.

It’s asinine that the most fundamental aspects of culture are off the table “in polite company” and it makes etiquette into a shallow, superficial, fake experience, albeit one that preserves the status quo.  If you can’t work through ethics and values and philosophy what’s the point of everything else?

The obvious reason that such topics are taboo is because they are controversial and most people are not particularly willing to change their stance, especially with the activation energy of a dinner party or meeting with people you frankly don’t care deeply about otherwise.  It usually requires a much more significant event like a death or epiphany to move someone to really question and alter their views in a rapid fashion or the long slow process of erosion of a belief over time against the realities of life.

Thus “just don’t talk about it” is a conflict avoidance mechanism for etiquette doyennes to play fun-police and say NO ARGUMENTS! and keep people happy and the wine in the glasses instead of splashed in faces.

The thing is that this conflict avoidance makes sense when we out-source and up-source the big questions to other people.  The sheep let the shepherd make the choices and worry about the smaller questions of where am I going to eat and poop today.  There’s also an inherent insecurity involved with most world views where having others believe what you believe and act how you act is an evolutionary advantage so when you find yourself in conflict, you change them, they change you, or you get out. Some missionaries employ the tactic to overcome someone’s extant world-view, but by far the most popular strategy is to use family pressure over children and spouses and indoctrination of blank slates via upbringing and control of the schools. It’s no small coincidence that most people adhere to the religion they were born into or married into.

Taking risks and learning things first-hand is hard and can lead to failure so it’s a risk-averse strategy to let others experiment, let others stick their necks out and stay with the herd because it’s easier and safe, even though it’s pretty mindless.

And human culture has positively reinforced this behavior.  Religions and Political Parties are like turn-key weltanschuuang for you to just swallow whole, and both are also highly indoctrinated into youth by their parents and peers right along with language and fashion and a variety of communal behaviors.  And even with their massive and inherent contradictions and flaws almost all social systems enforce the rules on everyone with strict punishments for anyone who doesn’t play the game the “right” way.

Dog culture, the primary focus of this manifesto, is all about Religion and Politics and this is why any discussion about ethics, efficacy, values, faults, and change are inherently impolite.  Registries are hierarchical political organizations that delegate power downward through breed clubs and exercise their power through intellectual property and barriers to entry. They “own” the breeds and issue limited member certificates to distinguish “us” vs. “them.”

The social political structure is also informally enforced by breed matrons and patrons who are typically the most connected breeders to the breed club and the registry and position themselves as “mentors” to select few new breeders and position themselves against most others.  Who gets to use whose stud dog and who selects the judge for which specialty and whose dogs that judge favors are all sorts of social-political drama-inducing behaviors that are entrenched in the culture.

The culture is also religious in the sense that there are just so many elements of the philosophy that must be taken on faith, as they are not science or evidence based — and would not naturally reemerge if they were forgotten, and are thus handed down by indoctrination like all faith-based systems.  The breed standards are part of this ad hoc religion as well as breeding methods like certain inbreeding schemes or sire selection criteria.  So too are puppy rearing techniques and placement behaviors.

If there were an easy, universally effective, and uncontroversial way to tell people they’re wrong or even find the Truth on even a single issue; there would be one government, one belief system, and scientific consensus on every issue.

Failing that, making sausage is going to look messy. There’s just no other way about it. Pick what strategy you want, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses and even the most brilliant and motivated people have yet to find the one-true-way to convince people of some greater truth.

In fact, most of the best methods to win minds are logical fallacies, conspiratorial, manipulative, and used to convince people of falsehoods. Or you don’t try and change minds and just preach to the choir, reinforce extant biases, and cheer-lead instead of lead.

So if you actually want to tackle extant culture head on, it gets messy. It’s part of the process really. It’s not primarily about changing minds and winning hearts, liars do a much better job of that. It’s not about waxing romantic about history or pretending that your little corner of the culture is just superior as-is and above reproach. To me it’s about speaking truth and recognizing things that will be validated not by popularity but by authenticity.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.