Animal Emotions

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"Oh Good, I'm In the Doghouse"

Luxury doghouses for our best friends who couldn't care less

While the vast majority of my essays deal with the behavior of nonhuman animals ("animals"), every now and again I write about the behavior of animals of the human kind, usually focusing on the unethical and inhumane treatment to which numerous animals are subjected. So, I was pleasantly surprised and pulled in a number of different directions when I read an essay by Jennifer Kingson in the New York Times called "Luxury Doghouses and the Dogs that Couldn't Care Less." 

A designer doghouse

For numerous humans, dogs are significant others for a wide variety of reasons. They provide great company, vacuum up food, are pretty easy to please, need to hear "good dog" and have their bellies and ears rubbed from time to time; and while they do discriminate among humans, many dogs exude what borders on unconditional love. And they don't seem to expect much in return; other than to be loved, fed, exercised, given veterinary care when needed, and to live in peace and safety. These wonderful beings trust that we will have their best interests in mind

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I've lived with many dogs over the years and they and their friends seem very happy with the make-shift modest covered double-entry doghouse I built for them in my outdoor dog run that is protected on all six sides from the black bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and red foxes (see also) with whom my dog friends and I share space. Every few years I'd redo their living/sleeping room, fix the front panel where some of them had chewed, buy new dog pillows, and oil the house to match my own rather small and modest home. 

Jethro and his friends' doghouse

According to this essay in the New York Times about designer luxury doghouses, some of which have carpeting, heating, and air-conditioning (one of which is climate-controlled by an iPad), some people spend as much as $20,000 for these places in which dogs rest, sleep, chase animals in their dreams, and pass gas. Frank Lloyd Wright even designed one for a 12 year old boy in the 1950s. 

I'll let readers decide whether these boutique doghouses are a bit excessive and I do agree with the title of the article that the dog tenants "couldn't care less." When my rescued love muffin companion dog, Jethro, was getting old and arthritic I did buy him a doggie water bed that was easier on his joints and kept him cool during the hot and dry summers outside of Boulder (Colorado). I didn't think the $75.00 was excessive and when Jethro died I gave the water bed to the local humane society so that they could loan it out when someone graciously fostered or adopted an old dog. I think Jethro cared about his new bed but couldn't have cared less if it were in his rustic doghouse or in a doghouse that looked like the Taj Mahal. 

When people do something that annoys someone else and they pay for their indiscretion we often say "They're in the doghouse." Given what's available for some dogs, my response now would be "Oh good!, it's nicer than my own pad." 

I was pulled in a number of directions thinking on the one hand how nice these designer homes are for the lucky dogs, and on the other, wouldn't it be nicer to use that money to help other dogs (or animals) in need and perhaps buy a pretty cool doghouse but not go overboard. We all have the right to make our own choices as to how we spend our money but my choice is to give dogs a comfortable living space where they feel safe and to help other animals in need. 

The first image in the text and the teaser image can be found here as can many other luxury doghouses. 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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