You have total responsibility and limited control. It’s a labor of love.
Targeted Readership: Men
Theme: Female Agency and Accountability
Length: 1,600 words
Reading Time: 8 minutes + 31:35 minutes of videos
In our previous discussions, women’s level of moral agency has been compared to that of children. This analogy seems to have been lost on some readers, and I’ll assume it’s because they have no children of their own.
As a philosophical exploration, let’s take a look at the moral agency of dogs. Maybe this will resonate with those readers who can’t identify with the humbling experience of having children.
The Agency of Dogs is Determined by the Authority Structure
I never wondered whether dogs had agency until I had watched a few episodes of The Dog Whisperer, starring Cesar Millan. Take a look at this video and see for yourself.
Aggressive German Shepard Problem – Solved by Cesar Millan (2020/2/2) Length: 4:40
Here, Cesar points out that the German Shepherd, Savannah, is aggressive towards everyone because she can sense that her owner, Ron, lacks the ability to protect himself. If dogs can sense that their owner is weak and defenseless, then they will be motivated to act as a protector of the owner. If dogs feel their owner has no authority, then they will try to fill the vacuum of authority by asserting a place of authority themselves. So we see that dogs do have a sense of agency in defending their territory and protecting their owners and loved ones. But this agency is strongly dependent on the structure of authority. Dogs know instinctively who the top dog is, and they fall in line.
Cesar’s solution is for Ron to learn martial arts so that he can develop a sense of inner strength and self-confidence. After Ron practices karate for a while, he gains the confidence necessary to convince Savannah that he truly has authority and doesn’t need her to protect him. As you can see in the video, after Ron gets his inner game together, Savannah is much better behaved and is obedient to Ron’s lead.
Women are the same way. If they can’t get the sense that a man is confident and self-controlled, then they’ll feel insecure and try to assume a position of authority in the relationship. The difference between dogs and women is that dogs will try to protect their owner by being aggressive to everyone else, while women will try to destroy their marriages by taking their aggressions out on the man (e.g. contentiousness, fitness tests, etc.).
Agency and Testosterone
One important piece of information that we gained from Ron and Savannah’s story is that a dog’s exercise of agency conforms to the structure of authority. Apparently, this also applies to humans too.
Commenter Info brought our attention to a couple scholarly articles indicating that testosterone isn’t only associated with dominance but also submission to legitimate authority.
- Inoue, Y., Takahashi, T., Burriss, R.P. et al. Testosterone promotes either dominance or submissiveness in the Ultimatum Game depending on players’ social rank. Sci Rep 7, 5335 (2017). [DOI]
- D. Terburg, S. Syal, L.A. Rosenberger, S.J. Heany, D.J. Stein, J. van Honk, Testosterone abolishes implicit subordination in social anxiety. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 72 (2016), pp. 205-211. [DOI]
The first paper reports that testosterone promotes either dominance or submissiveness in the Ultimatum Game depending on players’ social rank. The second publication indicates that testosterone helps make people comfortable with subordination once a hierarchy is established.
Testosterone, and Agency, lends itself to the authority structure!
Agency and Trust
A small number of people are extremely skilled in managing their dogs. But some owners are clueless, lazy, and negligent about taking care of their dog. They just want the dog to be well-behaved at all times and they get angry and frustrated with the dog when it doesn’t do what they want, and this only makes the dog more anxious and ill-behaved. In the next video, Cesar illustrates how to release a dog’s fears and insecurities and create an atmosphere in which the dog can trust in the authority of the owner.
Confronting Richard | Dog Whisperer (2012/7/31) Length: 2:46 minutes
As Cesar Millan demonstrates, most ill-behaved dogs are in a continual state of confusion and distrust of their owners, and so they behave accordingly. Cesar explains that the chihuahua, Richard, bites everyone because he is very insecure, has way too much power, and gets attention at the wrong time.
Cesar’s solution is to demonstrate his authority by confronting Richard until he can release his fears and anxieties, find rest, and learn to respect his authority. This is the first step towards trust.
Women are the same way. They will throw up all kinds of defense mechanisms (e.g. bulverizing, evading, gaslighting, lying, making excuses, etc.) until a man will confront them, demonstrate authority, and hold them accountable. The difference between dogs and women is that dogs will gradually grow to trust their owner more over time, while women will often doubt a man’s authority at the least sign of weakness and will backtrack to a more primitive state of reckoning, often in an attempt to usurp control (e.g. denying sex, secrecy, silent treatment, stonewalling, etc.).
Dogs have Personalities
In the video above, Cesar corraled a contentious chihuahua — a breed of dog known to be a belligerent fice. Such a dog needs to be contained in the home and not allowed to roam outside.
But let’s say you have a calm, friendly Collie. She likes to run and play outside. It would be morally cruel to keep her penned up in a small cage all the time.
Now let’s say you have a Rottweiler. If the Rottweiler bites the mail man, who is responsible for covering his medical bills? It would not be unreasonable for him to expect the owner of the dog to pay. If he did, then it would be the morally responsible thing to do. If the mail man is seriously injured, then you might serve some prison time.
OTOH, if the Rottweiler bites a thief breaking into the home at night and incapacitates him enough to be apprehended by the law, then you have just done society a favor.
Dogs are Trained through Operant Conditioning
If you want your dog to be disciplined and well behaved, then you’ll have to learn how to use Classical and Operant Conditioning and mete out rewards and punishments at exactly the right moments, and on a continually ongoing basis. Cesar Milan demonstrates how to do this.
How To Train Your Puppy! (With Cesar Millan) (2022/4/15) Length: 24:49
As you can see, it requires a patient and full-time effort to dispense regular discipline, and it will take some time for the dog to learn.
For the moment, all discipline seems not to be pleasant, but painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.Hebrews 12:11 (NASB)
Yes, we love and esteem those particular dogs (and women) that are well-behaved, well-disciplined, and well-trained!
Dogs have a Feral Nature
In spite of all the hard work you might do in teaching and disciplining the dog, the dog may relapse into feral behaviors at any time. If this should happen, there is not much you can do other than to continue disciplining the dog.
A dog is short lived, 10 to 15 years at most. (That’s about the same length of time that women are young, beautiful, and fertile.)
If you want your dog to have pure bred puppies, then you’ll have to do a bit of work to find another person who has a dog of the same breed as yours who is willing to let him out to breed.
If your dog copulates with the neighbor’s dog and has a litter of puppies, then whose puppies will they be? Whose responsibility will they be? Who will have to buy dog food and supply medical care for these puppies?
If these puppies are mongrelized, whose fault is that? Isn’t it because you let the dog out at night and left things to chance and mother nature?
What if you lived in a society that made it a punishable offense to put your dog on a leash, to keep it penned up, to teach or discipline it, or to arrange, limit, or restrict its shagging habits in any way? And at the same time, this society also requires by law that you must take full responsibility for anything the dog does!
In this case, it is no longer a civilized society, but an enslavement to the dog-eat-dog law of the jungle!
As we can observe from Cesar Milan’s expertise with canines, it’s somewhat juvenile to assume that dogs either have moral agency or they do not. In reality, the agency demonstrated by dogs depends on…
- The structure of authority.
- The authoritative presence of the owner.
- The dog’s relationship with its owner.
- A history of Classical and Operant Conditioning.
- The nature / personality of the dog.
- The context of a given situation.
The most poignant lesson that Cesar teaches us is that relationships are dynamic, and a clear structure of firm authority and an established trust in that authority are paramount.
If you choose to have a dog, then you’ll need to spend a bit of time to care for the dog and teach it how to behave. It will require expenses. There will be times when the dog creates trouble, maybe even serious trouble. Even the most well behaved animals are prone to the error of biting the hand that feeds them and regularly engaging in feral behaviors like shagging indiscriminately.
There will also be moments of excitement and joy.
As any dog owner will tell you, owning a dog is a labor of love. People have dogs because they love them, in spite of all the time invested, the extra expenses, and having to sweep up hair, mop up urine, and scoop up sh!t on a daily basis.
- Σ Frame (Lexet): Whipped Dogs (2021/10/12)