Course Description

This course explores the question, What is the domestic dog? Drawing on readings from across the disciplines (including literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and biology), the course inquires into how the dog has been constructed in human history and how, in our determinations of the dog’s value (e.g., as hunter, protector, pet, medical specimen, etc.) we circumscribe our own identity as “human.” Specific areas of inquiry include the psychology of animal ownership, the science of dog behavior and cognition, and the question of animal agency. We will also consider ethical problems raised by the topic including the technology of breeding and the use of animal models in scientific research. Through reflection on these issues, students will reevaluate their understanding of the complex bond between humans and dogs, the line between human and animal, and the question of what moral consideration humans owe animal others.

Student Learning Outcomes

All FYS courses have the following outcomes:

  • Demonstrate critical thinking strategies related to interpretation and evaluation of texts (verbal, visual, or performative) in the context of course materials.
  • Identify and consider assumptions, thereby building informed perspectives
  • Analyze a variety of rhetorical situations.
  • Identify and employ a range of writing strategies for discovering, developing, organizing, revising and editing.
  • Identify and apply the discourse conventions of a chosen academic discipline or field (including conventions of genre, format, citation, citation, structure, and vocabulary.

The outcomes below are specific to our course topic:

  • Identify and analyze the intellectual processes involved in answering from several disciplinary disciplinary perspectives the question, “What is the domestic dog?”
  • Identify and analyze the ethical considerations involved in examining the above question.
  • Acquire an introductory understanding of dog evolution, biology and genetics.
  • Identify and analyze different narratives of the domestic dog’s evolution and the dog’s role in human history.
  • Acquire an introductory understanding of human/animal constructions, including common representations of human/animal relationships and interactions.