W. Bruce Cameron on Simple Rules, Dogs and Ethics [Podcast]


By Adam Turteltaub

W. Bruce Cameron is the author of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter and a whole series of novels about dogs including A Dog’s Purpose which spent 63 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His latest novel is Love, Clancy: Diary of a Good Dog.

So, why is he on a compliance and ethics podcast? Well, because his writing has a lot more to do with it than you might think, and he learned some painful lessons about setting and enforcing rules. It was easy enough to write those simple rules for dating his then two teenage daughters, but that didn’t make him popular. He was seen as a despot and met resistance (both overt and subtle).

As for those daughters, one is now a CFO and the other, ironically, works in law enforcement.

The experience taught him several lessons that compliance teams can relate to:

  • You have to recognize that you can’t have complete control
  • Just because you think thing will go better if others do what you say, they may not
  • There is a need for human expression and accommodation for it

Dogs have proven less argumentative for him. As he observes, they have been bred over the centuries to be absolutely dedicated to us. We raised them to be our tools first and then pets. Today they are thrilled when we come home and bring their optimism and hope, and their love of play, into our lives.

Dogs, though, he believes, lack an innate sense of right and wrong. Instead, they are born with instincts where what pleases us is “right”. That, he explains, is why dogs owned by bad people turn out “bad”: they are doing what they think will please their owner and, to them, that’s the right thing to do.

We have an ethical duty to dogs, he argues, because they are wired to please us. In addition, they were bred to depend on us even to survive.

Listen in for a fun conversation about dogs, ethics and the often frustrating outcomes of setting even the most basic of rules.