The wolf within
Human friendship with canines dates back some 14000 years. As wolves lived in close proximity to humans they evolved into the 1st domesticated species. Despite selective breeding our dogs DNA and skeletal structure remains pretty much identical to that of a wolf.
It might seem far stretched or even unacceptable to hear that the wolf basically lives on within each and every dog. But consider that crossing a wolf (canis lupis) and a domesticated dog (canis lupis familiaris) produces perfectly healthy and fertile puppies. To the contrary most other hybrid offspring is infertile, e.g. the mule (cross of a female horse and a male donkey). Whereas hybrids between wolves (or even coyotes, dingos, jackals) and dogs are always fertile.
Despite the fact that dogs live in our human world and have been bred and domesticated from gun-dogs and working dogs to toy dogs does not impact their link to the wolf. Dog instincts are a survival mechanism and basically have not changed. The key for their survival lies with the pack structure. And in a pack someone needs to make decisions. To make the right decisions the pack makes sure that the one making the decisions knows what he or she is doing.
The issue of humanizing
We often unconsciously neglect fulfilling our dogs basic needs and working with their instincts. The biggest hurdle to effectively communicate is our omnipresent way of humanizing dogs. Dogs are so closely bonded with us that we usually forget about their natural instincts. Wherever you look people treat their dogs just like another human being: showering it with love, hugging and cuddling it, talking to it, comforting it, getting angry at it, yelling at it, wanting to make up for behavior we feel guilty about and so on. But what a behavior means to us may mean the total opposite to a dog.
Getting frustrated and angry when your dog is not responding to your call is a human reaction. Assuming that the dog understands your frustration/anger or raised voice as an emphasis of your request is plainly wrong. This is our way of seeing the world, not the canines. To a dog shouting or anger signify that your leadership capabilities are not up to scratch as you are obviously overwhelmed by what is happening and are not to be trusted to make decisions.
Dogs are not only confused by our human way of communication but also by our human world. The dogs world evolves around food, play, territory, the pack and all the various relationships within the pack. They can be utterly at loss at what is happening in our human world without our clear guidance. What they don’t understand is a potential threat, which is why it is pretty much impossible for them to cope well if they believe they need to look after us.
As owners we have to apply self-control towards our emotional needs and learn to fulfill the dogs needs first if we want a balanced and relaxed dog. That means given them boundaries, limitations, guidance, consistency. Sharing love and affection with your dog is great, but should be done when your dog is in the right state of mind, meaning calm and relaxed. In that way we teach our dogs self-control by giving them the clarity and leadership they need in order to be happy and relaxed in a human world they can never understand. When they understand that we look after everything are they able to step back and enjoy themselves. Their instincts are at ease, when we are in control.
We are keen to hear your experiences with humanizing and your dogs instincts. Why don’t you share your story!?
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