cover image Who’s a Good Dog? And How to Be a Better Human

Who’s a Good Dog? And How to Be a Better Human

Jessica Pierce. Univ. of Chicago, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-226-72171-2

This thought-provoking treatise by University of Colorado bioethicist Pierce (Run, Spot, Run) meditates on the “ethical issues that arise in our caring relationships with dogs.” She encourages readers to grant dogs as much agency as possible while ensuring their safety and health. For example, Pierce speculates that “many dogs suffer from chronic anxiety related to” their inability to access food at will but acknowledges that keeping food available at all times often leads to overeating, recommending readers balance “what makes our dogs happy and what keeps our dogs healthy.” Taking a similar tack to whether owners should force “couch-potato dogs” to exercise, she suggests that humans should largely “respect our dog’s preferences” while allowing that it might sometimes be necessary to coax canines to get active for their own health. Pierce is less decisive on other topics, as when she urges readers to consider whether desexing dogs robs them of the fulfillment of mating and parenthood without going so far as to say that spading/neutering is unethical. Elsewhere, her stimulating considerations of “How long can I comfortably leave my dog alone at home?” and “Is training, by its very nature, coercive?” make for a fresh and rigorous inquiry into how humans can best serve their canine companions. Dog lovers will want to take note. (Sept.)