Every once in a while a pet parent will ask us to avoid eye contact with their dogs lest they become aggressive. Well, it turns out that rather than discussing their dog, these pet parents might just be discussing our elected officials. Let me explain.
In Minnesota, for example, Senate Rule 36.8 requires that all remarks during a debate be addressed to the Senate president. When Senator Tom Bakk became majority leader a few years ago he interpreted the rule to mean that senators could not even look at each other during debate. And why would a State Senator enjoin his colleagues from looking at each other during debate? Why else? Because eye contact could make the senators more aggressive. He claims that he can cite examples of bad behavior before his rule interpretation and none after it. On the other hand, elected officials in England and Ireland continue to be allowed to look directly at each other (granted only across the aisle and not face to face) during debate and decorum is in very short supply during those debates.
Does this mean that we should ban eye contact with dogs both at Pet Camp and with politicians in the legislature? Most pet parents know that the issue is a lot more subtle then the folks, or at least the legislature, in Minnesota would have you believe. We’ve all seen dogs looking right at each other all the time wagging their collective tails communicating only the best of intentions to each other. We’ve also seen dogs staring at each other with grimacing looks and hackles raised communicating just the opposite. In both situations direct eye contact with dogs was the only thing in common, but the intent was completely different.
So where does this leave the politically focused pet parent? Can we risk our elected officials going all agro on each other? Barking and growling instead of debating the important issues of the day – oops they might already be doing that. It looks like our elected officials might just be in need for some basic obedience and socialization. But sadly while we only use positive reinforcement to encourage good manners at Pet Camp, we’re not sure we’ll have the same degree of success with our elected officials.
Thanks for reading!