We know consciousness requires a specific level of awareness. Many people view other life forms who have a lower level of awareness as having a lower level of consciousness. Thus consciousness correlates on a reasonable level with awareness.

Can a dog give consent?

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    Could you clarify what you mean by "consent"? I can argue this either way, depending on that. – David Thornley Nov 13 '18 at 23:05
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    One option would be "moral consent", an analogy to the human notion of "consent". – elliot svensson Nov 13 '18 at 23:21
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    Ref for prank article about dog park "rape culture": politico.com/magazine/story/2018/11/11/… – elliot svensson Nov 13 '18 at 23:30
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    To what? Are you feeding it? Having sex with it? – user4894 Nov 14 '18 at 0:38
  • While this question stimulatingly prompts us to think about the nature of consent, it also concerns the nature of a non-human animal consciousness, that of a dog, and so falls within zoology. There are zoologists on this site who can use their scientific knowledge but the question is only partly philosophical. – Geoffrey Thomas Nov 14 '18 at 9:20

Looking at the Op's profile, Ric clearly knows dogs, and therefore already clearly knows the answer to his own question — yes, dogs clearly possess the requisite awareness/consciousness/whatever for "consent". No need to grossly over-intellectualize it.

What's really, really clear is that dogs can express enthusiasm, and conversely reluctance. Consent is maybe a bit more subtle, but it's not a question of if the dog can express it, but of whether or not you know the dog well enough to read its expression and body language. I've been in plenty of dog situations where it's clearly communicating, "Yeah, yeah, okay, but it ain't my first choice."

How do I know for sure that's what the dog's feeling/communicating? Well, there's the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test for intelligence, whereby Turing pretty much gave up on a quantitative definition/test for "human intelligence/consciousness". And I'd imagine we're pretty much barking up the same tree (sorry, couldn't resist) for "dog consent". And they most unquestionably pass my Turing test for that.


According to Planned Parenthood, consent must be FRIES:

Free, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific.


I suppose that any of these aspects of behavior could apply to dogs, except for "Free". In many cases, it seems to me that a submissive dog has not arrived at submission without the threat of violence, or perhaps real violence.

Also, in the case of sex, it is not generally Reversible for the dog not to get pregnant once the dog has gotten pregnant.

It is hard to know if a dog knows what will happen after it has sex, so I suppose that Informed consent is also hard for a dog to grant.

Dog consent may be Enthusiastic or not. Clearly this is a matter of circumstances.

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    I do not personally agree with Planned Parenthood's formulation of consent as a general definition: consent that is reversible is hard to explain and borders (to me) on incoherence. – elliot svensson Nov 13 '18 at 23:48
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    @CriglCragl, no. I am saying that communicating your plan to do something, in a way that causes another person to make an investment, causes an obligation to arise with you: you are somehow responsible for the investment made by the other person. – elliot svensson Nov 14 '18 at 17:32
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    @CriglCragl, imposing guilt or coercion for some next thing based on some previously agreed-upon thing is the nature of contract, of course. I posit that consent defines the agreement by which people enter into contract. This is not to say that sex is a contract, but that contract might be a useful analogy for sex. – elliot svensson Nov 14 '18 at 20:18
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    Would "revokable" be a better word than "reversible"? – David Thornley Nov 14 '18 at 21:38
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    @DavidThornley, it seems to me that "revokable" and "reversible" have a sort of similar function... maybe what's going on is that PP realized that for consent to be specific, people need to be reminded that it's limited in duration and doesn't create a license. If I were writing this, I would be inclined to be more radical; rather than saying consent is reversible, I would suggest saying that consent doesn't hold very long at all: you need to get consent frequently. – elliot svensson Nov 14 '18 at 22:19

A "dog" cannot give consent in the same way a tree cannot. While you may be tempted to rub its bark up the wrong way, it is just a "thing" -- that happens to have sexual organs. As we may, or may not, learn from the history of suppositories, "sexual organs" ought be treated with a certain intelligence. Why are you even asking this lol?

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    How do you know that a dog cannot give consent in the same way that a tree cannot? Please explain your reasoning here. – curiousdannii Dec 13 '19 at 2:07
  • how is a tree going to agree to have sex with you @curiousdannii – user38026 Dec 13 '19 at 15:52
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    I never said any such thing. This is your answer, so it's your responsibility to make your case. – curiousdannii Dec 13 '19 at 15:59
  • it's an argument from analogy @curiousdannii ["it's just a 'thing' -- that happens to have sexual organs"] – user38026 Dec 13 '19 at 17:06

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