Dog rights have been developed in a CANIS workshop with the involvement of Dr. Erik Zimen. As a first step the dog has been analyzed from different angles resulting in dog requirements. Under consideration of social aspects the dog rights have been developed.

Preamble

The dog is a descendant of the wolf and has wolfish characteristics and requirements. Although it is part of our society it has the following rights due to its ancestry. Dog owners, breeders and trainers are required to keep those rights in mind at all times and do the utmost to support that these rights are respected. Furthermore they shall take progressive steps to ensure general and actual acceptance as well as realization of those rights. A dog’s behavior is considerably influenced by its human partner.

Article 1
The dog has the right to have a competent owner

A competent owner knows about the wolfish ancestry and the consequences to the life with him. He is furthermore informed about behavior, communication and education. Basic knowledge about maintaining health and care as well as the consequences of having a male or female dog is necessary. Before acquiring a dog it is essential to be informed about special characteristics and requirements of the different dog breeds in order to avoid that the dog is mentally and physically under-challenged (please see article 9).

Article 2
The dog has the right to have permanent social contact to humans and dogs

Precondition is the physical proximity to social partners. Therefore keeping a dog in a kennel is only tolerable if the dog is mainly kept in the house. Tethered housing is definitely inappropriate. The aim should be to keep at least two dogs. If this is not possible regular contact to other dogs must be assured (dog park, puppy play hours, meeting other dog owners for dog walk etc.).

Article 3
The dog has the right to play with conspecifics

While playing with conspecifics the dog gains social competence. It learns specific dog manners (action and reaction patters in social events). If the dog shows mixed motivations (hunting, sexual, territorial and aggressive behavior), the owner has to intervene in order to avoid ritualized behavior such as the permanent fixation on playing objects. Mixed motivations can also occur while the dog plays with humans. Dogs often test their limits and try to cross them at play. Therefore the owner has to decide on the kind of game and control its start and end. Playing with dogs does not mean to toss a ball and let the dog chase it. Playing means a diversity of behavior and not equipment. Playing with dogs means to bicker and to run together, to look at each other, to hide, to touch and to have fun.

Article 4
The dog has the right to reliable social relations

The dog is no product or disposable. It is important for the dog to live in a stable social structure. It is intolerable, that the dog is ripped out of this structure at will. The dog needs a defined position within the family. This position will be assigned by setting clear limits, within which the dog can move freely. All family members have to react directly and adequately in case the dog crosses the set limitations (= unwanted behavior).

Article 5
The dog has the right to dog specific communication

Dogs are communicating only nonverbal. They are using their body to communicate with conspecifics and humans. Understanding the dog’s body language and using the own body in social interactions is the right way to communicate with dogs. This involves touching and stroking but also setting limits. Next to body language, barking and growling is dog specific vocalization used for communication. Barking might mean joy and excitement, but barking and especially growling can also be a warning signal to defend territory, group members or itself. In these cases the owner has to avoid bite incidents (mailman can safely reach letter box). Ritualized barking has to be inhibited by the owner. Additionally the owner has to proactively take into account that some people (e. g. children) might not react correctly to the dogs threatening and warning behavior.

Article 6
The dog has the right to physical exertion

The wolf is a able to trot long distances. Due to their anatomy most dogs are able to run ten to twelve hours per day, too. Therefore is is absolutely necessary to physically challenge the dog.

Article 7
The dog has the right to move freely

The dog should mainly be off-leash. It is only then able to get in proper social contact with its kind, which is so important. This liberty also enables the dog to explore its environment. The dog walk should often take place in different areas, so that the dog can explore something new again and again, as it requires variety.

Article 8
The dog has the right to life and physical integrity

All kind of cruelty and abuse is prohibited without exception. Dog breeding shall under no circumstance result in physical defects as done with e. g. Shar-Pei, bulldogs, pekineses and toy dogs. Genetic disorders shall not be accepted as a result of breeding methods. Limited communication abilities due to extreme wrinkling in the face is also a physical and genetic disorder. The purchase of these dogs shall be abandoned! Dogs have the right to receive veterinary aid in case of disease and pain. This includes the right not having to endure further suffering in hopeless cases. The owner has then to make sure that the dog will be put down professionally. The physical integrity can be violated if a castration is reasonable. A castration is reasonable, even without veterinary indication, if another dog's right (e. g. right to move freely – article 7) will otherwise be considerably limited.

Article 9
The dog has the right to get tasks which are in correlation with its nature

The owner of working dog breeds such as hunting dogs, sheep dogs, livestock guardian dogs, watch or sledge dogs has to ensure tasks in accordance with the dogs disposition or at least ensure a substitute recreation. If this is not feasible, the purchase of such a specialized dog shall be abandoned. The recreation in accordance with the dog’s disposition shall not jeopardize other individuals. But this is often the case when the dog’s breeding objective is an increased aggressiveness and/or defense readiness. In densely populated areas, the necessary hazard control measures are inevitably affecting the species-appropriate requirements (e. g. being mainly off-leash cannot be sufficiently ensured). Breeding and keeping this kind of dogs is therefore a serious problem in Germany.

Article 10
The dog has the right to learn from its own experiences

Nothing can replace own experiences, especially not those a young dog is able to make. Therefore the owner has to acquaint the puppy early with several different surroundings. This also helps to avoid “wrong imprinting” (e. g. chasing joggers, bikers or running children). It is important to support and lead the dog in its learning and maturing process. The goal shall be that the dog knows its limitations, the difference between playing and seriousness and is able to control its aggressive behavior in order be able to behave adequately in various situations and move safely and confident in its surrounding.

Article 11
The dog has the right to get dirty, to stink and get flea

Due to the wolfish ancestry the dog has certain behavior patterns and requirements:

  • to roll in decomposed carcasses / feces
  • to jump in mud holes
  • to dig holes
  • to dig for mice etc.

The above is top-ranking behavior for the dog, and the owner has to tolerate it. Nevertheless the owner is responsible for the dog’s health (vaccination, anthelmintics, flea and tick control, etc.).

Article 12
The dog has the right to species-appropriate, adequate and varied feeding

Dogs have a large nutrition spectrum, including decomposed carcass, leftovers, bones, slaughter waste and feces. The dogs quality of life decreases if only fed with dog food.

Conclusion

The dog is a dog! But in our society he risks being judged only by human demands. The above rights shall support to see the dog as an animal with wolfish requirements and to value and love it as such.

Participants of the workshop and author of the “dogs rights” are: Dorothea Bakir, Werner Biereth, Sieglinde Bürger, Rainer Dorenkamp, Nina Egger, Jens Eikelmann, Monika Germann, Sabine Gerteis, Ute Heberer, Agnes Hillmer, Sonja Jürgens, Tanja Kittelmann, Christina Landmann, Andrea Mansfield, Melanie Metz, Simone Müller, Eva Näher, Daniel Ney, Tina Oldenburg, Peter Przybilla, Helga Schüller, Dr. Ulrike von Wardenburg, Sylvia Werner and Dr. Erik Zimen

Translation by Heike Diekhoff