Are you a kind, benevolent Master?

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In summary, I am struggling with the role of 'dominant' in my relationship with my highly intelligent dog, Luna. I find myself processing the few fictional stories I know that examine the master/underling relationship and engender some empathy for the underling. I wonder if Luna sees me as kind, but knows there's no question about our relationship. I worry about the day when the tables are turned and she is the one who is submissive.
  • #1
DaveC426913
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I managed to go five and a half decades without a pet more sophisticated than a fish, and I have no family who has had pets either. Now I find myself spending my days and nights with a (highly intelligent) dog, 'Luna'. (My son became owner of a dog and now we sit while he goes to work.)

So I have no precedent for what it means to have such an animal in one's life. I find myself struggling with the grey area between pet and 'person'. Should I be treating Luna like I'd treat a three year old human toddler? Or is she really "just" a pet?

It crops up whenever I question whether I am being kind or respectful or caring toward Luna.

If she were hooman, would I so effortlessly ignore her pleas for food or snacks - I mean, she could actually be hungry...
If she were hooman, would I be so oblivious to the nonverbal cues of her pacing when she has to go outside to pee?
If she were hooman, would I so guiltlessly eat my lunch while she only gets two meals daily? Would I guiltlessly snack every time I get peckish?
If she were hooman, would I still eat all the good bits of my dinner and throw her only the last, burnt or stale bite?

I find myself inadvertently processing (I can't help it) the few fictional stories I know that examine the master/underling relationship and engender some empathy for the underling:

1. 'Zardoz', 1974 (Sean Connery) - Connery is a slave who lives a life of relative leisure, even though he gets thrown the scraps only at the pleasure of his Mistress. There's scene where he's gorging at her table and almost takes his good life for granted - almost forgetting he's a slave. He sees the shadow of her with her whip just in time to keep the facade of being terrified of her as his master. I wonder of Luna sees me as kind, but knows there's no question about our relationship.

2. 'Goldfish Bowl', R. Heinlein, 1942 sci-fi short story - a man is abducted and spirited away to a featureless room where he concludes he is being kept by an advanced form of intelligence. He is fed bland food and water but the entities never even show themselves. He realizes he is not being studied, he is simply a pet, and a neglected one at that. His life is literally worthless. So much so that, when he dies, he is flushed down a colossal toilet. I wonder if Luna trusts that I'll come back for her when I go out.

3. Empire of the Sun, Spielberg, 1987 (Christian Bale) - A rich class British boy is caught in the Japanese invasion of Shanghai. As his privileged life is ransacked, his house is looted by the (Chinese) servants. His housemaid, who he has grown up with, slaps him smartly across the face and then turns her back on him leaving him to starve. Would Luna remain loyal, if our structure broke down?

I don't think a dog considers things like equity/fairness - she instinctively knows I'm higher than her in the pack. So, she 'might' in her simple doggy mind, think "He is my pack, and has earned my unconditional loyalty."
So, when the pet uprising comes, and the tables are turned, will Luna look on me with mercy? Or with contempt?

Does anyone else struggle with this sort of empathy? Or does having a pet from an early age spread that processing thin enough that it comes naturally?
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  • #2
Addendum: Having read this out loud to my wife. I have this bit to add:

For me, this is a manifestation of being atheist. I don't look to a higher power for judgment or validation; instead I look to my peers, in the form of humans or simpler creatures. How would I judge me? It is my way of the affirming the Golden Rule: 'Treat others as you would have them treat you.'
 
  • #3
You are thinking too much like a human.

You are overlooking the possibility that the dog is considering you to be more dominant member of the pack it is part of.
The already established social organization of dogs (which comes with them) fits in well with being submissive to more dominant humans (contrast that with cats).
Let the dog lick you in the mouth to show its submission to you. This reinforces your dominant role.

In the SciFi way of looking at things, I once read a story about some elephant-like aliens which were taking over, but once they (for some reason i forget) submitted to humans, they became dog-like in their relationships to them.
 
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  • #4
BillTre said:
You are overlooking the possibility that the dog is considering you to be more dominant member of the pack it is part of.
Yes, that is what my rational brain keeps telling me will be the righteous thing to say when she and her sistren rise up.
BillTre said:
Let the dog lick you in the mouth to show its submission to you. This reinforces your dominant role.
She's not fond of that. She's into belly rubs. But a part of me wonders what she thinks of belly rubs.

Am I the master and she submissive - or am I ... attending to her?
 
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  • #5
I believe that, for a dog, exposing th estomach is another sign of submission.
 
  • #6
BillTre said:
I believe that, for a dog, exposing th estomach is another sign of submission.
Yes.

Yet it is also true that grooming is one way that pack underlings are required to show fealty to pack superiors.

She certainly doesn't see me as her underling, but in nature, pack members are constantly vying for pack prestige and instinctively employ such (passive-aggressive?) actions as attempts to navigate the pecking order.
 
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  • #7
BillTre said:
You are thinking too much like a human.

You are overlooking the possibility that the dog is considering you to be more dominant member of the pack it is part of.
The already established social organization of dogs (which comes with them) fits in well with being submissive to more dominant humans (contrast that with cats).
Let the dog lick you in the mouth to show its submission to you. This reinforces your dominant role.

In the SciFi way of looking at things, I once read a story about some elephant-like aliens which were taking over, but once they (for some reason i forget) submitted to humans, they became dog-like in their relationships to them.
Sorry, nope. Anytime anyone starts talking like this, you know they know little to nothing about animal behavior as it relates to canines. Probably parroting what their grandfather said or worse from watching TV dog trainers like Cesar, et. al.

These words: Dominance, pack, alpha, master, etc. are a relic of "old school" dog training. Much of this was justified by the idea that dogs evolved from wolves, and that's how wolves behave, which is completely wrong. This was the result of ethology of captive wolves, mostly male in zoos and such. This is roughly the equivalent of watching the inmates at San Quentin and deciding how you should treat your children accordingly.

Honestly, I can't spend the time to describe the right way to treat dogs except to say that a good first approximation is to treat them as you would an infant child.

Since my background is an unknown search dog trainer, I'll leave y'all with some links about the whole dominance myth from experts:

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT):
https://apdt.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/APDT-POSITION-STATEMENT-DOMINANCE-2019-Final.pdf

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB):
https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Dominance_Position_Statement_download-10-3-14.pdf
https://www.sfanimalcare.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Why-We-Dont-Punish.pdf

Journal of Veterinary Behavior:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787808001159

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA):
https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-the-rspcas-view-on-dominance-dog-training/

I could give lots more links, but y'all won't read them anyway...

BTW, how do you think elephants, grizzly bears, falcons, and dolphins are trained? Do they do alpha rolls with them?
 
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  • #8
I would start by reading "Don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor. A classic in modern dog training.
Also any of the online stuff from Karen Pryor, Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stilwell...
For a more philosophical bent: "Bones Would Rain From the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier.

A couple of simple animal behavior rules:
- You get more of the behavior that is rewarded, less of the behavior that isn't.
- Dogs don't really understand "No" it just means you aren't happy, but they often don't know why. It is much more effective to train "do this, not that" than to train "don't do that".

Finally, my favorite dog training quote, from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." (no, he wasn't talking about dogs) Be a leader, not a master. Make your dog want to be a good dog, not scared to be a bad dog. It works much better, and you don't have to feel like a jerk.
 
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  • #9
DaveC426913 said:
I managed to go five and a half decades without a pet more sophisticated than a fish, and I have no family who has had pets either. Now I find myself spending my days and nights with a (highly intelligent) dog, 'Luna'. (My son became owner of a dog and now we sit while he goes to work.)

So I have no precedent for what it means to have such an animal in one's life. I find myself struggling with the grey area between pet and 'person'. Should I be treating Luna like I'd treat a three year old human toddler? Or is she really "just" a pet?

It crops up whenever I question whether I am being kind or respectful or caring toward Luna.

If she were hooman, would I so effortlessly ignore her pleas for food or snacks - I mean, she could actually be hungry...
If she were hooman, would I be so oblivious to the nonverbal cues of her pacing when she has to go outside to pee?
If she were hooman, would I so guiltlessly eat my lunch while she only gets two meals daily? Would I guiltlessly snack every time I get peckish?
If she were hooman, would I still eat all the good bits of my dinner and throw her only the last, burnt or stale bite?

I find myself inadvertently processing (I can't help it) the few fictio...,...
A behaviorist of dogs could help you, or could help you better.

You might try to read about the behavior of wolves.

You understand that Luna is intelligent. What type of dog breed is Luna, or what breeds are part of the mix? Note that intelligent dogs may manipulate their human people.

Really! Find a dog behaviorist.
 
  • #10
DaveE 's post #8 is either probably excellent or is excellent.
 
  • #11
DaveC426913 said:
It is my way of the affirming the Golden Rule: 'Treat others as you would have them treat you.'
Noooo, for a dog, that would be terrible o0)

Joke aside: there are two things I cannot agree with in the current dog taming guidelines.

One is, the whole 'like an infant' thing. Nope. In my book, it's more 'like an infantile adult'. With that kind of respect and attention.

The other is that persistent urge to tame o_O The primary 'function' of a family dog is to be part of the family: being able to bring back the stick an sit straight gets its meaning only through that and in itself it's quite meaningless. And taming can't be considered as substitute for consistent care, but it's kind of sold like that these days.

Regarding the original question - dogs can and do talk. Is she happy? Are you happy? Are the others happy?
That's ~ all, for a family dog.
 
  • #12
Rive, much of what you say (post #11) is understandable and very acceptable, but "taming"? Maybe you're looking for a different word?
 
  • #13
Well, duh. Maybe I did not get the right one.

How would you call that dumb 'drill for the sake of drilling' type of activity you can so often see in some army boot camp horror type movies, if it's applied on dogs?
 
  • #14
DaveC426913 said:
...
I find myself inadvertently processing (I can't help it) the few fictional stories I know that examine the master/underling relationship and engender some empathy for the underling:
...
As a 'fish, reptile and bird person', I have no opinion to share on dogs, though taking care of your son's animals seems righteous. Your literary references prompt a response.

DaveC426913 said:
2. 'Goldfish Bowl', R. Heinlein, 1942 sci-fi short story - a man is abducted and spirited away to a featureless room where he concludes he is being kept by an advanced form of intelligence. He is fed bland food and water but the entities never even show themselves. He realizes he is not being studied, he is simply a pet, and a neglected one at that. His life is literally worthless. So much so that, when he dies, he is flushed down a colossal toilet. I wonder if Luna trusts that I'll come back for her when I go out.
Heinlein liked the old professor mentoring a young scientist plot idea. The young scientist does have a mission to perform even in death: warn humanity that "creation took eight days", a synopsis of their theory that their captors evolved in Terra's upper atmosphere.

I recently reread "Goldfish Bowl" after reading a PF thread on ball lightning. Good analogy to the premise of your thread. Giant waterspouts and ball lightning constitute the primary manifestations of 'Factor X' in the story.

DaveC426913 said:
3. Empire of the Sun, Spielberg, 1987 (Christian Bale) - A rich class British boy is caught in the Japanese invasion of Shanghai. As his privileged life is ransacked, his house is looted by the (Chinese) servants. His housemaid, who he has grown up with, slaps him smartly across the face and then turns her back on him leaving him to starve. Would Luna remain loyal, if our structure broke down?
...
J.G. Ballard wrote the autobiographical novel that provided the basis for the movie. Submission to authority and finding parental substitutes play an important role in 10-year old Ballard's survival as a prisoner of Japan in Singapore's notorious Changi prison until the end of WWII.

Based on reading many of your posts, you may like reading "Empire of the Sun" and other Ballard stories and movies adapted from his work such as Cronenberg's dark thriller "Crash" (1996).
 
  • #15
Klystron said:
... other Ballard stories and movies adapted from his work such as Cronenberg's dark thriller "Crash" (1996).
Yes, that film had a profound message, one I'll never forget.

(Also captured perfectly in Wreck-It Ralph):

1653498537923.png
 
  • #16
DaveC426913 said:
Yes, that film had a profound message, one I'll never forget.
...
I mentioned the latter novel/movie for the effect of war and violence on childhood and subsequent inability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Or maybe "Crash" is just about 'sex and car crashes'.

My son liked that cartoon; I was more a Bugs Bunny fan, doc.
 
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  • #17
Klystron said:
I mentioned the latter novel/movie for the effect of war and violence on childhood and subsequent inability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Or maybe "Crash" is just about 'sex and car crashes'.
I confess, the message 'I'm an a******, but I'm not a complete a******.' was the big take away for me. People are not either good or bad; they're both simultaneously.
 
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  • #18
DaveC426913 said:
I confess, the message 'I'm an a******, but I'm not a complete a******.' was the big take away for me. People are not either good or bad; they're both simultaneously.
Right. Sheltered rich kid swept up in invasion of British colonies makes difficult choices to survive. He learns his devoted amah (nanny) despises his privilege. Separated from parents and imprisoned with refugees indifferent to his needs he loses trust and an expectation of kindness. Reunified with parents can teenaged J.G. regain trust and find love?

Near the close of the 20thC., mature successful writer / producer / autuer maimed in an automobile accident at the airport, joins with local car crash victims under the leadership and direction of the Elias Koteas character. They discuss 'master' relationships, both benign and potentially deadly, usually in a sexual context, assisted rather than hampered by the technological imprints of automobiles on their bodies. Ballard uses this 'car-borg' context to bind with his group and improve communication with his beautiful wife, as though the invisible marks of his childhood war experience left him unable to relate to love absent shock and violence.

Interesting note between Heinlein's short SF story "Goldfish Bowl" and J.G. Ballard's 1973 novel "Crash": the young scientist facing loneliness and death tattoos his torso using fingernail scraps to create lasting scars that provide a cryptic warning to the world after his dead body surfaces. The crash characters augment their visible scars and twisted limbs with industrial tattoos of their crash car symbols as homage to forces beyond their control and as warning to their lovers.

"Have you noticed how heavy the traffic has become? So many more cars?".

Director David Cronenberg stages the car crashes in Montreal taking advantage of wide modern freeways visible backdrop in several scenes. Sunny Canada defeats claustrophobic England of the original source, heightening visible sexual tension among the mangled characters, their spouses and lovers.
 
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  • #19
Klystron said:
Successful adult writer / producer maimed in automobile accident joins with other crash victims under the leadership of the Elias Koteas character. They discuss 'master' relationships, often in a sexual context, assisted rather than hampered by the technological imprints of their cars. Ballard uses this context to improve communication with his wife, as though his childhood war experiences left him unable to relate to love absent violence.

Interesting note between "Goldfish" and "Crash", the young scientist facing loneliness and death tattoos his torso with fingernail scraps to provide a warning to the world. The crash characters augment their scars and twisted limbs with industrial tattoos of their crash car symbols as homage to forces beyond their control and as warning to their lovers.
Oops. I didn't check the release date on your Crash citation.

I was referring to Crash (2004), with Matt Dillon as a racist cop.

I deliberately eschewed Crash (1996), judging that any potential meaning would be swamped by the glorification of the violence inherent in car crashes.
 
  • #20
Rive said:
Well, duh. Maybe I did not get the right one.

How would you call that dumb 'drill for the sake of drilling' type of activity you can so often see in some army boot camp horror type movies, if it's applied on dogs?
I still do not understand what you mean and meant using "taming". I do not know what is the right or better word that should be used.
 
  • #21
symbolipoint said:
I still do not understand what you mean and meant using "taming". I do not know what is the right or better word that should be used.
Rive said:
How would you call that dumb 'drill for the sake of drilling' type of activity you can so often see in some army boot camp horror type movies, if it's applied on dogs?
"Domesticating, rote, conditioning?"
 
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  • #22
DaveC426913 said:
Should I be treating Luna like I'd treat a three year old human toddler? Or is she really "just" a pet?
More or less, treat the dog like a child. One should be kind and gentle with a dog, just as one would be with a child.

Dogs are more than 'just a pet'. Like cats, they are highly intelligent, and they like to play. Furthermore, they like routine and consistency.

Dogs do need more hands on interaction, or more human interaction than cats, but also depends on the dogs temperament.
 
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  • #23
DaveC426913 said:
She's into belly rubs. But a part of me wonders what she thinks of belly rubs.
If it were a male dog you would find out quite easily... :oldruck:
 
  • #24
strangerep said:
If it were a male dog you would find out quite easily... :oldruck:
I am not clicking on that link.
 
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  • #25
Reminded me of:

An elderly man was walking down the sidewalk near his house with his visiting 5-year-old Grandson. As they passed a hedge, they surprised 2 dogs doing what dogs sometimes do. The grandson (Timmy) asked: "Grandpa, what are those dogs doing?" The old man, knowing that his daughter would be furious if he attempted an honest explanation said: "Timmy, see that dog in back? He hurt his paw. The dog in front is towing him home." Timmy seemed to accept this explanation and the old gentleman was very pleased with himself for deftly avoiding a touchy subject. A few minutes later, Timmy said: "You know Grandpa, dogs are a lot like humans." The old man said" "What do you mean Timmy?" "Well," replied Timmy, "You try to help 'em out and they @!#% you."
 

Related to Are you a kind, benevolent Master?

1. What does it mean to be a "kind, benevolent Master"?

Being a kind, benevolent Master means being a leader or authority figure who is compassionate, understanding, and fair in their actions and decisions. It also involves using one's power and influence for the betterment of others and the greater good.

2. How do you demonstrate kindness and benevolence as a Master?

As a Master, I demonstrate kindness and benevolence by treating others with respect and empathy, listening to their needs and concerns, and considering their well-being in my decisions. I also strive to create a positive and inclusive environment for those under my leadership.

3. Can a Master be both kind and strict at the same time?

Yes, it is possible for a Master to be both kind and strict. Being kind does not mean being lenient or permissive, but rather showing compassion and understanding while still maintaining boundaries and enforcing rules. A balance of kindness and strictness can create a healthy and productive dynamic between a Master and their followers.

4. How does being a kind, benevolent Master benefit those under your leadership?

Being a kind, benevolent Master can benefit those under my leadership in many ways. It can create a positive and supportive environment, promote trust and loyalty, and foster personal and professional growth. It can also lead to better communication and collaboration, resulting in more efficient and effective work.

5. Can someone learn to be a kind, benevolent Master or is it an innate trait?

While some individuals may naturally possess qualities of kindness and benevolence, it is also possible for someone to learn and develop these traits as a Master. It requires self-awareness, empathy, and a willingness to continuously improve and adapt one's leadership style. With effort and practice, anyone can become a kind and benevolent Master.

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