Dogmeat is one of my favourite aspects of Fallout 4 probably because I am a real animal lover, but from what little I have heard and read about the previous Fallout games, Dogmeat has stayed with the franchise and developed with the advancement of game design.
You meet Dogmeat pretty early on in the story of the game, when you come across the Red Rocket. Dogmeat is just casually standing outside the station and you have the chance to make him your companion by greeting him. Through this process of greeting, you recruit Dogmeat to be your first companion and he shows his usefulness when you come across some of the enemies in the game. Dogmeat can help you fight anything that attacks you, although he does suffer from health damage after some time. He can be tasked to find enemies and items in the area, he can carry some of your items for you when you reach the weight limit and he can even perform tricks for your entertainment. Dogmeat is your first companion and you can choose to keep him throughout the entire game, but you might miss out on what the other companions can offer you.
When you meet other people that can come your companion, you have to choose where to send Dogmeat so he can wait for your return. The first time I had to decide this, I chose to send him to Sanctuary where Preston Garvey’s group relocate to after you save them from the raiders. However when I tried to find him in Sanctuary after some time has passed, I couldn’t find him at all. I thought I had lost Dogmeat forever! After researching some forums I realised that there are several different doghouses in Sanctuary where Dogmeat might be waiting and sure enough I found him resting in one of them and I was able to get him as my companion again. So if you’re playing Fallout 4 and you do lose Dogmeat look for the dog houses. When you choose a settlement to locate yourself (I chose the Starlight Drive in) go into the workshop and make a doghouse for your settlement, so you are more likely to know where to find Dogmeat if or when you have send him away.
The Fallout 4 version of Dogmeat is really quite expressive, when you interact with his character he displays lots of realistic dog-like behaviour. He whines, he barks, he even plays with objects when he’s not needed and he is also susceptible to an adorable sneezing fit that many people have observed and captured in their gameplay. The character of Dogmeat is important in the game because it gets people to show empathy, there is something really appealing about the dog and even if you find you hate all the other humans in the game, you can always depend on your relationship with Dogmeat. He reminds you that there is innocence, happiness and trust in this apocalyptic world, despite what all the other characters and monsters throw at you. There are some people in the game that reject the idea of living in the world of the Commonwealth, preferring to live in a world below ground which is controlled and safe. However Dogmeat’s character works to show you that there are some elements above ground, in the Commonwealth that are good. Otherwise how would Dogmeat’s character have survived in the world? Someone else must have cared for him before you, therefore surely there must be some good people out there.
In addition to this, the gameplay in the story can become really quite violent and perhaps without you realising it, you are faced with some graphic and brutal scenes as you navigate your character through this world of dangerous people and monsters who are constantly attacking you. As a player, you can become a bit desensitised to this violence especially because of the V.A.T.S system, which effectively dehumanises the character you are attempting to kill by reducing them into a set of targets with numbers representing their vulnerability. In this world that is so unlike the world we live in now, Dogmeat is the one character that really grounds you in reality. So that all the choices you make are made in relation to your own personal experience of the world you live in and the knowledge you’ve gained of this new post-war world.
Dogmeat’s character could be considered a symbol of the life before the war, before the bombs were dropped and you were frozen in the vault. A symbol of the life that seems impossible now because of the damage inflicted on the world. Previously your character was living a happy life as a classic American family, with the house in the suburbs and the white picket fence. This reference to ‘man’s best friend’ reminds you of how different life must have been for your character before the war (despite the fact you don’t get to experience this). Your own experience of reality as a player is drawn upon through this metaphor, meaning Dogmeat constantly reminds you of the idealistic goal of life living as a happy family. In addition to this, the premise of the story is that you are trying to find your kidnapped son, in the hope of becoming a family again, despite the fact that your significant other has been killed. Dogmeat can be considered as a symbol of the hope you have for Shaun, for that family life that has been torn apart by the war.