Many times, roleplaying games give information without giving the DMs anything to work with as far as how they might act as real-world creatures. But in order to help out the suspension of disbelief, DMs need to be able to show how they should *typically* act. This time we’ll cover canines in culture, dog reactions, playing canines in your games  and plots with canines.

Canines in Culture

Canines are used in culture in a variety of ways, including:

  • Power generation: dogs used in this manner turn roasting spits, churn butter, etc. by walking on a treadmill.
  • Draught animals to pull small carts for farms, peddlers, or travelers, to deliver mail, and to pull carts carrying people for transportation or entertainment. Sled dogs also fall into this category.
  • Service or assistance dogs help people with various disabilities in everyday tasks. Some examples include mobility assistance dogs for the physically handicapped, guide dogs for the visually impaired, and hearing dogs for the hearing impaired.
  • Therapy dogs to visit the elderly or shut-in, those who are autistic, or for those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also good listeners for reading programs.
  • Rescue dogs find people who are lost, buried under a building or snow, etc.
  • Herding dogs are invaluable to sheep and cattle handlers for rounding up the herd. A well trained dog can adapt to control any sort of domestic and many wild animals.
  • Performing dogs such as Circus dogs and dog actors are trained to perform acts that are not intrinsically useful, but instead provide entertainment to their audience or enable human artistic performances.
  • Hunting dogs assist hunters in finding, tracking, and retrieving game, or in routing vermin. Less frequently a dog, or rather or a pack of them, actually fights a predator, such as a bear or feral pig.
  • Guard/ watch dogs help to protect private or public property, either in living or used for patrols, as in the military and with security firms.
  • Tracking dogs help find lost people and animals or track down possible criminals.
  • Cadaver dogs use their scenting ability to discover bodies or human remains at the scenes of disasters, crimes, accidents, or suicides.
  • Detection dogs of a wide variety help to detect various insects in homes, illegal substances in luggage, bombs, chemicals, and many other substances. In a fantasy setting such dogs could even be trained to detect magic.
  • War Dogs or K9 Corps are used by armed forces or police in many of the same roles as civilian working dogs, but in a military context. In addition, specialized military tasks such as mine detection or wire laying have been assigned to dogs. Police dogs are usually trained to track or immobilize possible criminals while assisting officers in making arrests or investigating the scene of a crime.

Dog Reactions

A dog’s reaction to a situation is influenced most by its temperament. Note that *any* dog is capable of attacking if provoked, scared, or cornered.

  • Non-Responsive or Relaxed Temperament dogs are calm and relaxed. Dogs with this temperament are lackadaisical, happy to be left alone.
  • Responsive Dog Temperament This group of dogs tends to learn much faster and is also highly motivated to impress. Give them the command and they’re happy to comply. Unfortunately, they may obey just about anyone who gives them a command.
  • Active Temperament Dogs with an active temperament tend to get excited much faster, and are easily distracted by the surrounding environment.
  • Independent Temperament are strong willed, intelligent dogs. They may obey if given a firm master and rules.
  • Shy Dog Temperament are easily frightened by almost anything and everything. They are much more likely to flee than to fight in any given situation.
  • Aggressive Temperament may attack others, often without provocation

Playing Canines in your Game

Playing canines in your game is relatively easy, provided that you take the following into account when playing them:

  • Keep in mind their senses. Their main senses are smell and hearing; if either one is overwhelmed, the dog is at a huge disadvantage to being able to fight effectively.
  • Keep in mind their training. Just because a canine is provoked and tries to bite, doesn’t mean it can do so effectively if it has not been trained. Even a wild wolves’ bite may not be as effective against certain types of armor.
  • Keep in mind temperament. If the canine is skittish, it should need to see if it can escape. If it’s independent, the trainer needs to see if it’ll obey. If it’s non-reactive, it should be tested to see whether it reacts negatively to what’s going on in the first place.
  • Keep in mind group tactics. Canines are social animals and will often attack in a group, using tactics like isolation, flanking, attacking the weak, unwary, old, young, and/or injured. In doing so they increase their chances of success.
  • Keep in mind morale. If the enemy is too strong for the canine or group of them, or members of their pack get badly injured or killed, they may reevaluate their enemy or flee.

30 Dog related Plots

  1. Wild dog or wolf attacks on livestock have drastically increased lately. It’s up to the PCs to find out the cause.
  2. Someone breaks into cars (modern day) or back yards and steals dogs. They then wait for people to post advertisements offering a reward. It’s up to the PCs to discover who’s behind the dog-nappings (dragnet episode)
  3. A dog was put out by its owner because s/he no longer wanted it or the owner died. It’s so forlorn over its abandonment or loss that it sits outside what used to be its former place and looks pitiful. It’s up to the PCs to figure out how to tell it to move on.
  4. Wild dog or wolf packs have been clashing lately. It’s up to the PCs to discover the cause of the disagreements and intervene if they can.
  5. A female dog / wolf is in estrus (heat) is driving all the local dogs crazy. Is there something more the PCs need to know about?
  6. A puppy finds a fellow animal to play with. Too bad it’s a fox. (plot of the Disney classic “The Fox and the Hound”)
  7. A dog the PC (or someone they care about) gets rabies. It’s up to them to find a cure, if they can, or put down the animal (Old Yeller).
  8. The PCs have to help get medicine to a village, and only a dog that escaped an avalanche knows the way.
  9. The PCs must participate in a dogsled race similar to the real world’s Iditarod
  10. A dog dies and its will to live and care for others brings it back to life and won’t give up life until its task is fulfilled (All dogs go to Heaven)
  11. The PCs are in an arctic environment and need to use dog sleds (as horses would only founder and get crippled) to carry their gear.
  12. Someone has been trying to tame foxes meeting with limited success though keep in mind that the foxes, while “tame,” they aren’t dogs, don’t like to cuddle. There are stories of them urinating in people’s drinks if left on the floor.
  13. Someone is playing with breeding to create a more vicious killing machine. Unfortunately, the experiments turned on the scientist and now it’s loose in the community/ woods.
  14. Someone is playing up a local legend about a ghost dog that haunts the swamps. It’s only a trained mean dog (Hound of the Baskervilles)
  15. Some “meddling kids” solve mysteries with the help of their great dane (Scooby doo)
  16. An intelligent dog saves the day by running to go get help (Lassie)
  17. A boy and his dog. Warning TV tropes link!
  18. A family’s life is made more interesting by their adoption of a large dog (Beethoven movie series)
  19. Dogs get lost/ separated from their owners, and must find their own way home (Homeward Bound movies)
  20. Homeless dog befriends a lot of people, and when it’s gone, people wonder why. It’s up to the PCs to find out why it’s missing (Benji)
  21. Dogs have gotten smart enough to band together to steal food (Oliver & Company)
  22. A sheltered dog meets a streetwise one and has misadventures (Lady & the Tramp)
  23. A dog’s life gets upturned by the adoption of another dog (Secret life of pets)
  24. A woman is obsessed with having a white coat made of dog fur (101 Dalmatians)
  25. A dog helps play sports (various movies, among which are Air Bud and Soccer Pup)
  26. A famous dog learns the life of an ordinary firehouse dog
  27. A dog thinks it’s a superhero (Bolt)
  28. When unlikely friends a cat and a dog are separated, they attempt to find each other once again. (The Adventures of Milo and Otis)
  29.  A pack of sled dogs that are left behind on a dangerous mission and later rescued by their owner (Eight below)
  30. A dog gets reincarnated time and again to be reunited with his original owner (a dog’s purpose)