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The Canine in Conversation
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photograph of a dog in sunglasses and a cap
figure 1  


try it on the dog. Test something out in a situation where the outcome does not matter. Specifically, in outmoded usage, it means to refine a dramatic work before bringing it to a major stage in New York or London.reference 1

While the metaphorical use of the phrase does not refer to situations involving actual canines, the underlying assumptions in this phrase have been challenged in the past few decades. To animal rights activists, testing things on dogs—such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or genetically modified foods—is both unnecessary and cruel. In other words, the outcome does matter.reference 2 The phrase suggests that you don't test the water by sticking in your own toe. Instead, you make your dog try it first. In this sense, the phrase is very different from kindred metaphors, such as “run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” or “send up a trial balloon.”

As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) points out, animal testing reveals the contradictions in how certain animals are viewed by society. They quote Charles R. Magel, formerly a professor of philosophy at Minnesota State University at Moorhead : “Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally OK to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.'”reference 3

1. Martin, Linton. 1938. Philadelphia Is Pleased to Be a Dog Town. New York Times, Jul 10, 121. Accessed May 22 2008 from http:// gst/ abstract.html? res= F10917FD38581 A7A93C2A8178 CD85F4C8385F9.



2. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 2006. Animal Testing 101. Stop Animal Tests. Accessed Jan 16 2006 from http:// animalTesting101.asp.

3. Ibid.
About the illustration: People seem to love to put coats and other stuff on dogs, despite the fact that they have built in coats of their own. Perhaps this dog is aiming for a kind of Hunter S. Thompson look. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
see also: dog town; Pavlov's dog; Brown Dog Affair Last updated: March 31, 2008
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies