Social media outrage sparked by a piece from the Union-Tribune calling dogs parasites did not land on deaf dog ears in these hallowed halls of the R Street Institute. As canine professionals, we feel an obligation to discuss how broad generalizations and “clickbait” articles can not only harm specific groups of people, but all Americans and all puppers alike.

Even if you are using generalization hyperbolically, like we hope canine-bashing author Chris Reed is, it is a “joke” that can produce damning consequences. By calling us dogs parasites, a generalization is being made not only about dogs, but also about parasites.

Just some kibble for thought, some really smart humans at Harvard Medical School believe that doggos are an important part of a human’s overall health. They even go so far as to say we are good for your heart, your stress levels, and your triglyceride levels (which we don’t understand but they sound delicious). Not only that, but some other very smart humans have said that we can help you get a date… or make friends and be better at social interactions.

In addition, scientists have discovered that certain parasites have the ability to positively disrupt autoimmune diseases and some intestinal worms are believed to cure allergies. In fact, around 50 percent of all organisms are parasitic. You know what else is doggone crazy? Analysis from the BBC shows that if all of Earth’s parasites disappeared overnight we would not be better off. Instead, a world without the natural balance of parasites would see overpopulation, asexuality, and a literal swarm of locusts.

Furthermore, in a political arena where identifying as liberal or conservative creates broad generalizations about an individual’s beliefs on every subject from taxes to thermonuclear war, it is important to remember how individualism shaped our country. In his 1922 book, American Individualism, Herbert Hoover said:

“It is our sort of individualism that has supplied the motivation of America’s political, economic, and spiritual institutions in all these years. It has proved its ability to develop its institutions with the changing scene. Our very form of government is the product of the individualism of our people, the demand for an equal opportunity, for a fair chance.”

(By the way, President Hoover had a very good German Shepherd named King Tut who we would have liked to be best pup friends with.)

But broad generalizations aren’t the only reason Reed’s article has us pups barking. “Clickbait” articles like Reed’s are akin to being offered a treat and a ride in the car, only to pull up at the local veterinary office. Not only is clickbait bad journalism, but it is also bad for you! (The vet is scary but not always so bad, however.) A study released by The Journal of Experimental Psychology determined that a deceptive headline can impact the human’s opinion and can influence their behavior.

For example, a phenomenon known as “the caveat in paragraph number 19” occurred when an article about a diet, which supposedly cut breast cancer by 40 percent, did not mention that the study wasn’t actually even about breast cancer until paragraph 19.

If a human does not like us puppers, that’s ok by us. We don’t really like cats either. But even parasites have a good side. Sometimes you just have to spend a bit more time sniffing it out.

Image credit: Ann Phelan

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