Yeah, I know we’re not supposed to “judge a book by its cover.” But we all do anyway.
It’s only human.
But in this age of e-books, maybe it’s time to change the saying.
Perhaps we should tell ourselves not to judge a person by her dog.
You have a what…?
If you live in the country and have a hound, you’re a redneck. If you live in the city and have a pit bull, you’re a thug. If you have a poodle, you’re a snob.
The caricatures of dog people are ridiculous shorthand. But we’ve seen all these images in media for years. They may not be fair. But they certainly have staying power.
Because of our prejudices and expectations, certain combinations also make us laugh.
- The big, tattooed guy in leather walking a toy poodle
- The petite mom with two big brown Newfies
- The couch potato with a border collie (ok, that one’s not just visually disconcerting; that’s a recipe for disaster)
But if we get past looks, we often find smart reasons for the dogs some people choose to live with.
For instance, a toy poodle is a smart dog who fits easily into a biker’s sidecar. And giant dogs often have gentle temperaments and modest exercise needs that do well in a busy family.
Sorry, I can’t find comfort with a couch potato who has a border collie. Unless perhaps, that border collie is a service animal who gets lots of mental stimulation while doing her job.
Breed vs Behavior
When I was a newer dog person, I probably judged people more by the breed or mix of breeds of their dogs.
But now, I feel more positive about anyone I see with a dog. And I wonder a little bit about the sanity of people who can walk by a dog without giving it a second glance.
Now I’m much more likely to judge a dog person by behavior. No, not the dog’s behavior. Their person’s.
Judging Dogs By Their People
Do we also judge dogs by their people?
When I adopted my first dogs in the early 1990s, the shelter overflowed with German shepherd mixes. That was the scary dog du jour.
Within a few years, pit bull type dogs dominated our city’s shelter population as they became popular with young men who wanted a dog that would look tough and make them look tough for having one.
My husband and I lived in Southwest Philadelphia then, where we found it amusing to irritate the local teenagers by playing with their pitties. Let’s just say no one looks like a bad a$$ when their dog rolls over on his back and grins like a fool over belly rubs.
Now pit bull type dogs face discrimination across North America. I can’t help but wonder how much discrimination is driven by people’s assumption that pittie owners are mostly men of color. And if young inner city men started showing an interest in golden retrievers, how long it would take for fluffy blonde dogs to be demonized too?
What’s the takeaway here? The life lesson?
I don’t know.
Our friends at Slim Doggy wrote about judging a dog by his looks and inspired me to think about these things. It was a good reminder of how wrong we can be when we judge a
book dog by its cover.
And while I would love to have the detachment of a Buddhist master and never judge again, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
So maybe the point of this post is to remind us that judging is inevitable. And to suggest we take a few minutes to think about out judgements, where they come from, and if they’re based in truth or blind prejudice.
And to be happy that our dogs don’t judge us.
Your Turn: Do you find yourself assuming things about a person based on their dog’s looks? How about by their walk accessories (leashes, clothing, poop bags or lack of them)?