“Men are dogs,” people say in order to disparage the males of our species. Men are like dogs, presumably, because they tend toward the promiscuous, the easily distracted, and the eternally hunting. Like dogs, men will sniff all tails, hump anything animate and inanimate, eat trash with gusto, and do it all without any visible (and proper) shame. Men would lick their own balls if, like dogs, they were anatomically predisposed to doing so. Men would prefer to be low-down, lazy and dirty, like dogs. Men and dogs, above all, share an insatiable yen for pussy. And thus, men are dogs.
I actually like the men who are most like dogs. Think of it this way. Linguistically, the to-be verb “is” enacts the equal sign and, as we all know from algebra class, flipping an equation does not affect it. If A+B=C, then C=A+B. Therefore, if men are dogs, then dogs are men. (Likewise, if love is war, then war is love; if diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then a girl’s best friend is a diamond; if life is a bitch, then a bitch is life. And so on. Try it at home, it’s fun.) But as anyone who has ever stood on her head knows, what a difference an inversion makes in a Weltanschauung.
The concept “men are dogs” cherry-picks from a dog’s least desirable attributes (or those least desirable to human interaction; these traits seem to work just fine for canines). The sniffing, smelling, chasing, humping and indiscretion of dogs become those of men in the conventional metaphor. Flip the order and suddenly men are imbued with a whole new set of qualities. They’re trustworthy. They’re faithful. They’re noble. They’ll tell you when Timmy’s down the well, save babies from burning buildings, travel thousands of miles of treacherous terrain only to be with you, sleep happily and protectively at your feet, mourn when you leave, and jump with joy when you return—even if you only went downstairs to get the mail.
In my twenties, I considered myself a cat person. I looked askance at the dumb devotion of a dog. I mistrusted the unquestioning commitment of a canine. I derided the mute submission of the mutt. Why would I align myself with any creature that obligingly came when called? Give me the twitchy-tailed and haughty. At least cats were cool. I couldn’t imagine wanting a dog, even though I’d grown up with them and loved them.
Nearing thirty, I found myself changing, and I got the Legendary Spencer. He was everything I could ever want in a dog—smart, beautiful, connected, playful, funny, obliging, obedient and unequivocally mine. When he died, I was distraught, and then I adopted Boswell, who is as much like Spencer as he is different (he’s smart but neurotic, playful but frenetic, obedient but challenging, beautiful but a total goofball), and I realized that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, never-look-back dog person, and I’m good with that. More importantly, I realized that many of the qualities I love in my dog are the ones I desire in a man: intelligence, connection, commitment, affability, and a love of napping.
I do not, however much I like them both, want to treat men like dogs. I don't believe there's value in the wash of self-help manuals that suggest you can "train" your man using a metaphoric collar and leash, nor do I believe there's much value in the book that argues you can find love if you "pick your breed of man." Google the phrase "men are dogs" and you'll see a plethora of this kind of codswallop written with the intent to make women feel...something. If you want to train something, get a real dog. If you want to establish an equable relationship, find a real man.
I have written before of my Wookie fantasy. I recognize the embodiment of what I like in both men and dogs in Chewbacca. I suppose that doggy-man thing also explains my affection for Fedor Jefticheff (pictured above), Sirius Black from Harry Potter and my love of Oz in Buffy, especially Oz, the werewolf played by Seth Green. I would initially consider myself a Spike girl, but really the man who personifies the man I want is Oz—a whip-smart analytic dude whose offbeat cool masks the primal beast yowling beneath, the man who would literally go to the ends of the earth to find a way to be with me. Oz’s guitar playing would only be the icing on the dog biscuit.
Language shapes the way we think, and neither clichés nor metaphors are an exception. In my mind, men should be dogs: great, big, smelly, hairy, loving, wet-tongued dogs. I’m all for bringing out the mutts in men.
(And, yes, I updated this post in response to Pete's comment below. Thanks, Pete.)