Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

You Can Have Your Dog and Eat It Too

If eating dogs seems disgusting, why do we like to eat dog shaped food items?

Most contemporary people raised in Western societies find the idea of eating dogs to be repugnant. Although some Asian cultures still use dogs as food items, even they recognize the strong aversion that Westerners have for this practice. Because of this in 1988 when the Olympic games were held in Seoul, South Korea, and again in 2008 when the Olympics were held in Beijing, China, the respective governments passed temporary laws forbidding restaurants in the Olympic city limits to serve dishes made with dog meat. This was based of a fear that such menu items would offend their Western visitors. [However because of public pressure in both cases, shortly after the Olympics had concluded, dog dishes again became available, and dogs could again be seen hanging in local butcher shops.] Given the fact that most of us find the idea of dogs as food items to be most unsavory, I was somewhat amused when a friend sent me a photograph of a Corgi omelette. Rest assured there was no actual Corgi dog in the omelette, but rather this was a Japanese dish called "omurice," which is a type of omelette that is filled with rice. Kids, in particular, love it and it is sometimes shaped in the form of animals.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape corgi omelette
A Corgi omelette

As a psychologist I found this to be somewhat puzzling that, given our repulsion at the thought of eating dogs, we then go on to shape food in the form of a dog. So I contacted my network of friends in order to see how widespread the use of dog shaped food might be. My mailbox filled up with a variety of pictures of dog shaped food, mostly prepared for children. Some of these creations were rather simple, such as decorating a hamburger bun with slices of processed cheese torn or cut to the shape of ears, eyes, and the nose of a dog.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape Hamburger bun cheese
A dog shaped hamburger bun

A popular theme seem to be the idea of "a dog in a dog" where the dog shape was used to enclose a hot dog. These could be simple dog head shaped biscuits used as hot dog buns such as below.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape Hot Wiener sausage
A dog in a dog sandwich

A more elaborate version modifies the "pig in a blanket" theme, producing a whole dog body wrap for the wiener.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape Hot wiener sausage  pig  blanket
Another dog in a dog creation

Someone even pointed out that you can now buy bread cutters in the shape of dogs and other animals. These are like oversized cookie-cutter shapes, only a bit sharper so that you can cut through slices of bread and then use the resulting shapes for sandwiches in canine forms.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape Bread cutter sandwich
Bread cutters make dog shaped sandwiches easy

Another friend suggested that if kids really like to eat dog shaped things then perhaps we could use this to get them to eat their vegetables.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape  vegetable Cauliflower Broccoli
Some vegetable dogs

While I was meeting with two colleagues who also happen to be psychologists, I brought up the issue of what process might underlie the pleasure we get from eating dog shaped food. Freud's name came up as did Jung's, and words like displacement and responses to unconscious archetypal urges. Another idea is that such dog shaped food items might give children a feeling of control over animals since they are able to eat them with impunity. However in the end the consensus seemed to be that we eat dog shaped foods because such items seem to evoke some feelings of amusement, and that such amusement translates into a better dining experience. This seemed to be as good an explanation as any other at least until I got home and found another image in my mailbox.

Dog canine pet human animal bond food shape butt stew
Dog butt stew

Although I can agree that this is a funny image, I fail to see how the idea of a Dog-Butt-Stew would lead to a better dining experience. I do wish that Sigmund Freud was still around to offer his insight on what the motivation for this culinary creation might be.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: The Wisdom of Dogs; Do Dogs Dream? Born to Bark; The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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