Dogs. Breaking down social barriers.

I don't know about you, but i'm not the type of person who walks down the street saying hi to people at random. 

While some of you may find this endearing, most of us tend to keep the headphones on, the walking pace steady, and the eyes down, avoiding any unwanted social advances or interactions. 

I still find it amazing after all these years of dog ownership the way dogs break down social barriers. They are the great equalizer. Of course I don't need to point that out to fellow dog owners, but for those of you reading who haven't owned a dog or are thinking about getting one it's really quite a phenomenon.

Today's technology allows us to move around in a 'cocoon', and shut off from what's going on around us more than any other time in history, oddly enough when I walk our dogs, all of that disappears. I rarely use headphones, my demeanor completely changes and I am actively engaging with my surroundings, walking head held high and finding myself looking for interactions with people rather than avoiding them. Why is this I wonder?

Beyond my own 'awakening' the general public want in on the action too, even the non dog equipped 'cocooned' members of society manage a glance and even a smirk as our dogs stride on by. In fact when we are driving around town or on the way to Squeaker HQ Buddy the Bulldog loves to hang his head right out the window, complete with jowls and drool flailing.  

Monday mornings, City center is where the 'cocooned' generation is rife. As we drive past these groups, Buddy's head out the window you start to notice people breaking their gaze. Almost instantly faces light up and groups of people magically break out in laughter, smiles, finger pointing and hands waving as we roll past. The sheer ridiculousness of this scene get's me laughing as well. I imagine looking in the rear view and seeing a rainbow emanating from the back of the car, painting the scene behind us in full color. 

En route to the dog park (insert product placement here >>) with our Squeaker Poochlight Illuminating Dog Collar and Leash things get even more bizarre. Even the most timid and shy individuals are comfortable engaging with complete strangers and we are totally OK with it, if anything we accept and encourage this behavior. Is it because the rejection factor is so low? are our dogs empowering us to be randomly social? As dog owners we all seem to be in the same head space through common interest. Could it be that dogs are the original social media platform?

I also noticed racial and socioeconomic barriers disappear as well. On a recent trip to our new local dog park I witnessed mass acceptance of a homeless schizophrenic man by a group of dog owners. I noticed a man strolling across the park screaming at the top of his lungs, I had never seen him before and wasn't able to make out what he was saying. Almost as soon as I saw him I watched him make a B line straight for a playground full of children. I started walking then jogging towards the man unaware of his condition. As he got closer to the playground another man appeared and opened the playground gate for him, to my surprise, the man opening the gate had a Golden retriever with him. The Golden Retriever named Sunny was the homeless mans dog. The man clearly accustomed to this ritual calmly reunited Sunny with his owner.

Moments later the man and Sunny were walking around the park with the rest of us. Many people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, races and genders spoke with the homeless man and with each other. They petted Sunny and were more than happy for their dogs to play and be held by the man who moments earlier was screaming profanities in the park at the top of his lungs.

Witnessing this made me contemplate that too often our prejudices give way to reason and incorrectly the majority of us avoid what we don't understand and fear. We rarely (if ever) strike up a conversation or engage with a stranger but why was this scenario any different?

In the homeless mans case, even thought the disease made him act out. The unity of dog ownership completely overpowered our prejudices towards the man. Rather than avoiding him or getting mad the group rallied around him, engaging and conversing with him. Perhaps Sunny his dog gave the man a type of legitimacy or perhaps the fact he was fighting poverty and mental disease yet still have the ability to love and care for an animal won our respect?

Every individual no matter who you are deserves love and respect, we are all capable of being more social with one another. In this writers opinion dog ownership encourages us to dialogue and engage one another in conversation.

Dogs aren't prejudice and they love unconditionally. they can make you proud and equal parts they can embarrass you no matter who you are or your standing in society. They are the great leveler doing more for interpersonal relationships, open communication, breaking down social barriers and teaching us more about what it means to be human than humans themselves.

 What are your thoughts? Leave your opinions in the comments section and start the discussion.



Christopher Forcucci
Christopher Forcucci