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The Essence of Mengzi's "Five Relationships" in the Human-Dog Bond

Mencius and Shiba Inu


Over 2,000 years ago in China, there was a philosopher named Mengzi.

Mengzi expounded on the virtues of "Five Relationships," advocating for "the precedence of elders" and "the trust between friends."

"The precedence of elders" entails the respect and obedience of younger individuals towards their elders, while "the trust between friends" refers to the mutual reliance and trust among companions.

Could these principles be applicable in relation to dogs?

Dogs are not humans. Dogs have their own behavioral principles. Therefore, one should not project human sensibilities onto interactions with dogs. However, it's worth considering the principle of "the trust between friends" when it comes to friendships between dogs and humans.

One should not impose human sensibilities onto living with or training dogs.

Dogs have their own behavioral patterns, emotions, and senses, thus requiring training methods that align with these.

There are simple methods that anyone can employ to care for and train dogs.

A dog's living space should be within a kennel with a door or a cage.

They can be let outside for treats or playtime and then returned indoors afterward.

A little Shiba Inu looking this way

When a mother dog raises her pups, she teaches them about hierarchy.

She demonstrates how to establish relationships between the strong and the weak. As the puppies grow, they challenge the mother by biting persistently.

In response, the mother may growl and firmly hold their muzzle with her mouth.

She might even flip them over and hold them down with her mouth. If the puppy continues to attack, she may gently nip them in a way that doesn't cause harm. Even adult dogs will often submit by rolling onto their backs, indicating submission.

In the dog and wolf worlds, this is the established code. What applies in the wolf world also applies in the dog world, and these rules are mutually respected.

Utilize the codes of the wolf and dog worlds, namely their behavioral patterns, to train dogs.

Placing dogs in kennels with doors or cages can help calm their minds.

A distinction should be made between owners and dogs. While playing with puppies, feigning ignorance while gently covering their muzzles or stroking their groin area while they're on their backs can be beneficial.

These actions should be repeated casually.

Observing puppies playing together, one may notice them taking turns mounting each other. This mounting behavior signifies a competition for dominance among the puppies. Mimicking this behavior, owners can assert their dominance over the puppies. By doing so, owners can deter puppies from challenging them or biting them. This explains the significance of lifting puppies from behind.

Dogs are adorable creatures, and it's this cuteness that often leads people to keep them as pets. However, if a pet dog exhibits aggression towards its owner or others, it becomes unmanageable. This adorability can quickly turn into resentment.

Red Shiba Inu being held in a cuddle

Mengzi's "Five Relationships" comprise the virtues of parental love, loyalty between ruler and subject, marital harmony, precedence of elders, and trust between friends. The latter two, precedence of elders and trust between friends, are particularly relevant. These principles can be applied to the relationship between humans and dogs. However, it's important not to immediately invoke the "Five Relationships" and imply inequality between humans and dogs. Rather, it's about explaining the laws of the wolf and dog worlds, their behavioral patterns, and emotions. The relationship between humans and dogs is shaped by the virtues of Mengzi's "Five Relationships."

"Parental love" entails affection between parents and children. "Loyalty between ruler and subject" emphasizes mutual respect and care between a ruler and their subjects. "Marital harmony" stipulates the distinct roles of husbands and wives, each with their own responsibilities. "Precedence of elders" requires the respect and obedience of younger individuals towards their elders. Lastly, "trust between friends" highlights the importance of mutual trust and reliance between companions. While these concepts may seem outdated to modern sensibilities, they are nonetheless relevant when dealing with ancient breeds such as the Shiba Inu.

Multiple walking Shiba Inu

The relationship between humans and dogs is based on mutual affection and trust. At its core lies parental love, with humans assuming the role of elders and being respected accordingly by dogs. Each has their own roles, with humans being responsible for ensuring that dogs behave appropriately in society.

One aims to raise dogs to behave in accordance with societal norms. While this may seem straightforward, some dogs may not develop normally. There are variations in inherent traits and intelligence, just as there are in humans. Dogs, like humans, can also fall ill, and chance occurrences can disrupt plans. Dealing with dogs, especially puppies, requires one not to rigidly adhere to their own knowledge or preconceptions. It's natural to find puppies cute and want to treat them like human children, but doing so often leads to negative outcomes. The reason is clear: dogs' behavioral patterns are different from humans'. Training dogs requires understanding the rules established in the dog world. While "the trust between friends" remains constant, it's crucial to uphold "the precedence of elders," wherein younger individuals, be they dogs or humans, respect and obey their elders. In this case, the elders would be humans, and the younger individuals would be dogs. It's important not to forget that in the world of dogs, "the precedence of elders" is even more crucial than in the world of humans.


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