breeding dogs that are cute and anthropomorphic is animal cruelty | Aeon Essays (2023)

When you're in the grocery line, it's hard to look past this mom, and especially her baby. Your eyes keep wandering back to the cute little face, the chubby little hands, the messy hair, the big eyes that seem to stare straight into your soul. Even if you keep your hands to yourself, you may want to hold the baby in your arms and cuddle with him. The same can happen when someone walks past you with a puppy. You may feel an almost irresistible urge to hold and play with the puppy to get a whiff of his puppy breath. A bad day can feel so much better thanks to the little furry bundle of joy. If this happens to you, your brain has been hijacked by cuteness. Do not worry. It is natural.

Cuteness in offspring serves a key evolutionary function in eliciting a nurturing response in adults. have ethologistsdescribeda "baby schema" - a collection of childlike traits such as a round face, large eyes, small nose, soft skin or fur, unique smells (puppy breath!), and crying sounds - that unleash innate nurturing behaviors. The baby schemetriggersa surge of hormones in the adult brain and, more importantly, grabs attention and pushes baby-responsive movements to the top priority. Human babies share the same thing with other baby animalsCuteTraits why we find baby animals irresistible. As a neuroscientistMorten Kringelbachand his colleagues write in areviewof the phenomenon, cuteness is "one of the most fundamental and powerful forces shaping our behavior."

Cuteness is also one of the most fundamental and powerful forces shaping the human relationship with dogs. But, alas, not everything is sweet and easy — the lifelong cuteness of certain dogs has become a status symbol in their own right.

THorstein Veblen, inThe Theory of the Leisure Class(1899), was one of the first social critics to suggest that humans use dogs as status symbols. Veblen argued that the breeding, ownership, and display of rare and unusual dog breeds by the wealthy was a prime example of what he called "conspicuous consumption" — consumption that signaled wealth and social status. The more useless or unnecessary an object was, the better it reflected its owner's expansive success. Rather than being employed in useful work as hunters, shepherds, or guardians, the purebred lap dogs of the wealthy only had to look distinctive. A dog's function was to show a person's success to the outside world.

More than a century later, Veblen's observation has more snap than ever. Although far more complex than a display of wealth, dogs still function as suchStatus Symbole. They are bought, sold and displayed as extensions and expressions of human identity and self-esteem. They are used to shape how we feel and to influence the emotions of others. And by being sweet and lovable, they lift our spirits and attract our hearts; Dogs have become conspicuous emotional commodities.

InCapital city(1867) Karl Marx defined a good or commodity as "primarily an external object, a thing which by its properties satisfies human needs of every kind". The desire to express status or identify oneself as class or wealth through consumption can lead to what Marx calls "commodity fetishism." Fetishizing is believing that an object has the power to manifest status, prestige, attractiveness, or power. To create an illusion, fetishized goods - like the lap dogs of Veblen's leisure class - must be visible to others.

Users who post successfully and with some strategy can monetize their dog's cuteness

Today's most obvious dog fetish is the yen for cuteness. Almost any foray into Instagram, YouTube or TikTok will expose you to adorable pictures of dogs and cats and other animals that will make you smile and say:Ooh how cute!You have just experienced commodity fetishization by a cultural phenomenon, that of media scholar James MeeseCallsthe "sweet economy". The cute economy exists mostly on social media, is user-generated and heavily dominated by images of animals, especially pets. Within the Cute Economy, the goal is simple: generate an "aww" reaction, presumably followed by a tap on the screen to say "Like" and "Share". We can click through frame by frame of cute animals doing cute things and feel a little boost of positivity and good humor along the way.

Marketing researchers Ghalia Shamayleh and Zeynep Arsel of Concordia University in Canada have identified some of the most common categories of cuteness in online pet content: animals doing silly or silly things; Animals of extreme size (especially very small or "smol"); animals with an unusual appearance; and animals behave human-like. Dogs and other animals in the cute economy are often further humanized by being dressed up in clothing and outfitted with hats, jewelry, nail polish, and rainbow-colored fur. Users who post successfully and with some strategy can monetize their dog's cuteness. Certain dogs have become cute celebrities, with millions of loyal followers and paid content from advertisers. Overall, the cutesy economy is worth billions of dollars.

It's hard to argue with cuteness and impossible to deny the insufferably cuteness of dogs. But while the cute economy can temporarily make us feel good and generate lots of money, it could also drive unhealthy dog ​​ownership patterns and encourage more general attitudes towards dogs that aren't necessarily in their best interest. Maybe dogs have gotten too cute.

Do People only want dogs because of their looks? What are the motivations, values ​​and behaviors of those who decide to buy a dog today? These questions are part of a small but growing area of ​​study. Although the research is still preliminary, the available data suggests that physical appearance is the most important factor driving dog ownership practices in the United States and much of the West. And the look we're going for right now is "cute."

Unfortunately, the cutest and most popular breeds are also those at greatest risk for health and behavioral problems. Cuteness is often associated with dog ailments. The second most popular dog breed in the US last year was the French bulldog, affectionately known as the Frenchie, which is characterized by its large head, extremely short muzzle, large round eyes, and huge bat-ears. In addition to the Frenchie, other brachycephalic ("short-headed") breeds remain some of the most desirable, most purchased, and most likely to appear on Instagram and other social media platforms. Biologically, brachycephaly refers to a skull that is significantly shorter than is typical for a particular species. In dog breeder jargon, shortened snouts and flat faces are called conformational features. "Conformation" in the context of dog breeding refers to how a dog's physical appearance conforms to or conforms to the standards set by breed clubs. It says nothing about how well or poorly a dog with these physical traits will function in the world.

Humans are consuming dog breeds with extremely shortened skulls in ever-increasing numbers, despite the accumulation of evidence, much of it available to the public, that these dogs suffer from more than their fair share of physical and behavioral challenges and suffer a significantly diminished quality of life compared to theirs conspecifics.

Poor health is actually the trait preferred by people who acquire these dogs

Consumer research suggests that physical appearance is a stronger motivating factor for people acquiring a brachycephalic breed than for those acquiring a non-brachycephalic breed. The millions of people who acquire Frenchies, Pugs, Boxers and other dogs whose skull morphology affects the quality of life may not be aware that cuteness comes at a significant cost to the dog. Or maybe our attraction to cuteness outweighs curiosity about what the dog's day-to-day life experience might be like—when we first bring the dog home. How could something so cute not toofeelHappy?

Paradoxically, the appeal of cute little dogs can lie in their helplessness and disability. in onelearnPublished inPlus oneIn 2017, Peter Sandøe from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues identified a strange phenomenon. People who acquire dogs like pugs who have intrinsic health issues may be making a conscious decision based on the animal's needs. Dogs with poor health require more care. The increased care and neediness of the dogs can in turn create a stronger feeling of connection in the owner. So poor health is actually the trait preferred by people who acquire these dogs. And in a weird way, that makes biological sense. The human beingOoh how cute!The response is a very close evolutionary cousin of the caring response; both trigger the release of oxytocin, a powerful hormone involved in maternal care, bonding, and social bonding.

Humans are also drawn to the cuteness of dogs with extremely short legs and uncomfortably long bodies, like the corgi, dachshund, and basset hound. These dogs were bred for a trait called chondrodysplasia — the shortening of a dog's limbs caused by abnormal development of cartilage and bone. As with the brachycephalic skull shape, there are known health issues associated with the long, low, hot dog-like physique, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, disc disease, and several other orthopedic conditions. Once again, cuteness seems to override concern for the dogs' overall well-being when making purchasing decisions. Sure, Dachshund people love their dogs once they have them and try to take care of them as best they can; Most dog owners love their dogs very much. But our love can be onemixed bag.

One of the most troubling trends in dog ownership is the growing consumer interest in miniaturized dogs. Breeders are busy selectively breeding "pocket" and "teacup" versions of already small dogs, sometimes by mating dwarfs and sometimes by stunting puppies to keep them "smol." As the Spruce Pets website says in their article'10 to ThetaDog Breeds for Tiny Canine Lovers“ (2022) (hier Herz-Emoji einfügen):

Teacup dogs are extremely popular pets because these micro dogs look like forever puppies. No wonder they can fetch thousands of dollars apiece—their adorable small size makes [sic] them a hot commodity for expectant dog parents.

These dogs — including miniature versions of the Spitz (the “Pom”), the Shih Tzu, and the Chihuahua — are so cute and small and fluffy they could easily be mistaken for toys.

BBut being that cute is hard, and modern-day dogs have problems. Anxiety in dogs is off the charts. AlearnPublished inScientific reportsIn 2020, reviewing the medical records of nearly 14,000 domestic dogs in Finland found that three quarters suffer from anxiety-related problems. Dogs are also becoming increasingly disordered. Up from80 propercent of surveyed dog owners in Japanreportedthat their dog has behavioral problems—a manifestation not of a canine crime wave, but of the collective struggle of pet dogs to adapt to increasingly challenging home environments and meet increasingly unrealistic human expectations.

Cute little dogs seem to fight especially hard. have studiesfoundan inverse relationship between size and behavioral problems. The smaller the dog, the greater the number of reported problematic behaviors. One explanation for this is that small dogs are, on average, less trained and socialized than large dogs, and the emphasis in small dogs is often more on cute "tricks" than life-related skills like recall. Training may seem less important with a dog that is weighing3 pounds (1,4 kg)than with one80 pounds (36,3 kg)Dog, because small dogs can easily be physically overpowered by humans. When your Pom growls and lunges at a passing pedestrian, just snuggle them up in your arms. Problem solved.

Another possibility - and this applies to all dogs in the cute economy, not just the tiny ones - is that dogs are suffering from psychological stress as a result of a widespread and deeply inhumane human effort to "de-dog" our dogs.

All dogs, no matter how small and cute, have a set of needs that must be met in order for them to thrive physically and psychologically. Dogs must be able to engage their senses, body, and mind in a way that at least approximates their evolutionary history. They have to be on the floor, not in someone's purse. They must examine the pee messages left by other dogs and leave their own pee and poop messages. they have to sniff the rumps of other dogs; They have to hang out with friends, run wild through the grass, stalk squirrels, roll in smelly clothes and get their paws dirty. Dogs need to accept and solve social challenges, which means they need the freedom to meet and interact with their peers in near-natural conditions. The risk of dedogging can be particularly acute in small dogs, for which appearance has been most commercialized and fetishized. Cute little dogs are less likely to have their welfare needs met simply because the more toy-like a dog appears, the harder it is for people to spot the real dog hiding under the paisley sweater.

He's not sitting down to be cute in his Instagram photo; He sits like this because it hurts to sit like thatnormal dog

Adding to the challenge is that the cute physical traits that humans find appealing can interfere with dogs' ability to engage with their peers in behaviorally nuanced ways. Selective breeding for cuteness has reduced the clarity and range of visual communication in certain breeds. Dogs communicate intent and emotion through facial expressions, such as B. bared teeth or tightened eye muscles, by the shape of the labia or "lips" that are pulled forward and back during agonistic displays to communicate stress, by wrinkling the nose to signal aggression, by well-defined eyebrows that help enlarge the expression of the eyes, or by nuanced flattening or rotating the ears. Dogs also communicate through posture, and their legs can accentuate a dog's postural cues. A dominant or aggressive dog walks confidently on slightly stiff legs; A submissive or fearful dog slowly moves forward with slightly bent legs. This clear signaling of intent is key to smooth and peaceful social encounters between dogs. Compared to their more wolf-headed counterparts, brachycephalic dogs have less flexibility in facial expressions - their vocabulary is limited, they are adapted to certain face shapes, such as face shapes. B. a wrinkled nose, "tied up". In short, they are more likely to be misunderstood. Dogs with chondrodysplasia may not be able to use posture signaling as effectively as their leggy counterparts.

When we're overly distracted by cuteness, we may not realize our dogs are in trouble. For example, consider the heartbreaking fact that people are posting and liking pictures of "cute" or "hilarious" dog behaviors that are actually behavior stereotypes, such as: a dog snapping at non-existent flies, or frantically spinning in circles trying to catch its own tail. A stereotypy is a repetitive and seemingly futile pattern of behavior and is considered a sign of severely impaired well-being. Disorderly and maladaptive behavior in dogs is no laughing matter. Like the dog twirling behind its own tail, they often get out of control. Behavioral problems are the most common reason for abandoning animal shelters. They are also a significant obstacle to successful mediation. Owners who remain committed to caring for their disordered dog suffer anxiety and heartache as they attempt to diagnose and alleviate canine pathologies, or somehow learn to live with them. Behavioral issues can impact the quality of life of dogs and humans so severely that euthanizing a dog is the most compassionate option.

A mental breakdown is often associated with physical pain, and there is no denying that prioritizing appearance over health is fueling a canine pain epidemic. Complaints have normalized in dogs and even in entire dog breeds. In fact, a whole host of physical compromises have become so normalized that we don't see them as problematic. For example, we normalized breathing disorders in brachycephalic dogs. A Frenchie sniffing loudly at the camera might evoke an "aww" reaction, when in fact the sniffing is the sound of a dog struggling to breathe through a contorted snout. A recentlylearnvon Rowena Packer and colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK surveyed owners of dogs diagnosed with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) about their dogs' health and functioning. More than half of those surveyed said their dogs had no breathing problems at all. (BOAS is a chronic, debilitating airway syndrome in which soft tissues block the airways, making it difficult to breathe.)

We've normalized hip dysplasia and dislocated kneecaps. We've normalized physical deformities, abnormal postures, and odd gaits. A pug in a "lazy" seat with legs stretched out to the side, not under the butt, doesn't sit to be cute in his Instagram photo; He sits like this because it hurts to sit like a normal dog. Yet very few dog owners — or Instagram followers — would recognize this sitting as a pain behavior. And many would feel inclined to "like" and "share" pictures of the adorable pup. Dogs' physical and emotional experiences become opaque behind the veil of cuteness.

One last point: cuteness can be condescending. Calling something or someone cute isn't always a compliment, and in fact is sometimes a sneaky way of dismissing someone's feelings or thoughts. Dogs are far more than cute; They are rich, complex beings who are not defined by their good looks.

SShould we value more authentic relationships with our dogs? AlearnIn 2008, marketing scholars Michael Beverland, Francis Farrelly, and Elison Ai Ching Lim identified two distinct categories of motivation for acquiring a pet dog:intrinsischAndextrinsic. Those who were intrinsically motivated valued their dogs for who they were as individuals and for the friendship that had developed with the dog. Those who were extrinsically motivated acquired dogs as a result of a perceived elevation in social status or as a 'personal identity project'.

Beverland and colleagues argue that extrinsically motivated buyers, and those who acquire a dog as part of a personal identity project, are more likely to buy so-called designer dogs, such as the "Pugalier" (pug-king-charles-cavaliercross) than purebred toy animals, such as pugs and French bulldogs. As one respondent in the study put it, “I want to try a short-haired dog like a pug because they're pretty cute. They have to be cute – that's the criterion – so they can sit on the couch with you and snuggle up to you.” Extrinsically motivated owners tend to treat dogs more like toys and are more likely to humanize dogs by dressing them up and grooming and adorning them. They also tend to view dogs as more of a possession.

Following the language of Beverland et al. we might ask: Is it ethically better to be intrinsically motivated to acquire a dog than to be extrinsically motivated?

Fetishization is always a risk. Mutts and Rescues can be "cut" just as easily as pugs

One way to explore this question is to examine whether dogs that live with intrinsically motivated owners are better cared for than dogs that are bought for entertainment, pleasure, or the hope of social media fame. Can we support such a claim with empirical data? Not easy. But there are some threads we could pull. For example, Beverland's small study found that intrinsically motivated people viewed their relationship with their dog as a relationship of mutual respect between two intelligent beings who took responsibility for the dog's needs seriously and emphasized the importance of giving their dogs time let off leash to roam and explore. They expressed a desire to let dogs be their "authentic" selves. The extrinsically motivated tended to view the human-dog relationship as one-sided, with the owner as the dog's boss. These owners were interested in dressing up and pampering their dog to fit a certain self-image and tended to neglect the dog's needs.

For most of us, the motivations behind acquiring a dog are a complex combination of extrinsic and intrinsic. Those who find their dog inherently satisfying can still tune into the external judgment of others. This can take the form of virtue signs of having a mutt ("I would never get a purebred!") or that one adopted rather than shopped. Fetishization is always a risk. Mutts and Rescues can be "cut" just as easily as pugs. And any dog ​​can be put at the service of human self-identity projects and status-seeking. For the same reason, even dogs that are most fetishized and commercialized can still be recognized by their humans as authentic selves and unique and loved individuals.

It's time to take off the "sweet leash". The study by Beverland and colleagues invites us to reconsider our intentions regarding living with dogs. If we are uncomfortable with the commodification of dogs, then perhaps we need to prioritize the intrinsic motivations for interspecies friendships and direct our attention to each dog's inherent worth rather than its physical appearance. On an individual level, we can ask ourselves, "Why do I want to live with a dog and why?TheDog?” On a broader level, all of us who love dogs should actively question cultural and social practices that commodify and fetishize dogs. We can examine our motives for acquiring dogs, see some dogs as superior to others because of their looks, and we can think through the consequences for dogs of the human obsession with categorizing and judging them by that sinister butdark powerfulTerm: "race".

In particular, we can resist the commercialization and fetishization of appearance by opting out of social media channels that peddle the cutesy economy, such as: We may choose not to “like” or “share” images of dogs whose cuteness is associated with discomfort or when we get a sense of exploitation.

Even though we are biologically attracted to dogs who are super cute, we also have the ability to be mindful of our emotional responses to dogs, how and if we respond to our impulses. Sometimes we might decide our cute reaction is wrong — a dog that can't breathe really isn't cute — and we can work on restating and rewiring it.

And more importantly, all of us who now live with dogs — and perhaps especially those who live with an extremely cute dog (raise your hand) — can do our best to take our dogs off the cute leash. After telling our dog how cute he is with a wink, we also take a few minutes to explain his individual quirks and personality and look at his rich and mysterious inner world. Let's try to understand who her behavior is, what she needs to thrive as a dog, and how best we can provide those things. Let's close our eyes and imagine not what she looks like, but who she is. Then we take our royal, beautiful, weird, awe-inspiring dog out into the fresh air and just let him bea dog.

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