To me the dog is the original “Wolf man.”
A dog is so much more than just a domesticated (neotonous) wolf. Of all the domesticated animals on earth none lives more closely to mankind than the dog. A dog is clearly “more” domesticated than our horses, our chickens, our cows, our goats, our pigs, even “more” domesticated than our cats. No other creature lives as closely and is as adept at working with, communicating with, and reading us than our canine friends.
Imagine for a moment being a creature in partnership with mankind for the past 10,000-20,000 years! Dogs can even become what I call “ultra-domesticated.” If we want this ultra-domestication all we have to do is “ultra-socialize” from a young age and add in some rules and boundaries. It makes for amazingly well-behaved dogs. If we do not socialize enough we pay for this later when our dog’s behaviors are inappropriate or out of control. And, please, please, please understand that socialization does Not just mean sticking your pup into some random, highly-controlled, group class at a faceless training facility that offers dog training as one more stream of income (because they offer daycare, boarding, and selling you whatever else they can upsell you) and then later expect your puppy to be calm in any real life situation that you may encounter in your daily lives…Beware horrific training! Terrible training and behavior mod. runs rampant and usually falls into the “positive only” or “negative only” trap and has little to do with calm, social interactions between your pup and the whole world.
Use your imagination for a moment and step into my laboratory (I’ll be the guy laughing maniacally with the white lab coat…you can be the hunchbacked assistant if you want.) Please picture with me this new and interesting creature. Canis Familiaris is wolf-like in appearance but not quite a wolf. It’s behavior is wolf-like but somehow there is something distinctly human about it. This creature can read our own human body language, energy, fears and excitement like no other animal on earth. The creature can mirror, reflect, or imitate our own actions, emotions, and energy. The creature is equipped with super senses and some impressive weaponry.
It’s laying on the table bolted down in the laboratory and about to be released onto the unwitting populace! The horror! Sounds funny to you but this is actually my real life experience every day! Some people will buy puppies because they look cute and in a few months to a year they turn them into real life monsters! Or say you’re the kinder-hearted folks who decide to rescue a dog who initially acts shy and is sometimes called a “real lover” (the dog manipulates constant touching, claiming, and coddling because it is fearful or dominant- see my post on “Dealing with a fearful dog” and my post on “Introducing a Rescue dog into your home“) but turns out in a few short weeks to reveal he is a monster with little to no socialization or structure in his life!
Domestication has added familiarity which can have great benefits but being familiar in any relationship (a mother and her children, a husband and wife, a boss and an employee) can also have horrible social repercussions! None of us want to be too familiar with each other because it breeds rudeness. Many of the dogs that I see are acting downright rude and bratty and attempt to control/dominate everything or everyone in their social circle out of a fearful, aggressive, hyper, or dominant state of mind!
Many people just assume they know everything about dogs because dogs have been around for so long (as I’ve mentioned above.) but to be a real scientist or learn any new thing you have to step outside the box. You have to discover and observe and conduct experiments for yourself not just listen to every opinion from the dog park, internet, family member, or the random over-excited, treat-bribing trainer you meet in Petsmart or Petco. Look closely at this truly unique creature.
In my experience, on a social level, dogs seem to function behaviorally almost as if some mad scientist, some type of Dr. Frankenstein, mixed a wolf right from the wild with a human toddler and mixed in some human teenager as well. What a wild and enigmatic creature! Sometimes so similar to us; other times our complete opposite.
Behaviorally speaking, I have seen dogs demonstrate almost identical tantrums as our own human toddlers. I also see (every day) highly intelligent, socially manipulative “one-ups” and very specific language from dogs toward their human owners and the other people in their lives. These social manipulations are so excellently performed that the dogs are soon outwitting their owners and getting their own way! From fake apologies to sneaky misbehaviors dogs can act incredibly similar to our own teenagers who yearn (and whine) for freedom from our households but can only handle it in small doses (all depending upon their level of self control). I sometimes wonder if our dogs learned some of these social “one-ups” from watching and mirroring us for many thousands of years. I am constantly amazed at the complexity of the canine language and the wide range of intelligence in our furry companions.
When one considers intelligence you have to take into account the different types of intelligence (spacial, adaptive, instinctive, et cetera) and we shouldn’t just generalize and say (and I’ve heard or read this before in the past) dogs have the intelligence of say…a 3-4 year old human. That is absurd. There can be no comparison in regards to intelligence when totally different brains senses and bodies (different species) used for different environments are concerned. Dogs and humans are uniquely specialized to function a certain specific way and process the world differently. Also…one should not average out the vastly different growth periods of our canine companions and just assume the dog is aged 7 years to our human 1.
My best advice: Try to stop thinking so much like a human all the time! That will get you into trouble when you are trying to work with an animal. And don’t you think if the roles were reversed and our dogs dominated the planet like we humans do they would be laughing at our “intelligence” or, lack thereof, as they mocked us about how we couldn’t even smell our way back to our house if we were lost, or how we have no idea where the magnetic north is except through the use of tools, or how flabby and slow we may be, or how we can’t seem to see the benefits of clear, honest, communication, or how loud and talking we all are, or how impatient we are as a species, or how we can’t live in the moment for very long, or how we don’t appreciate each moment and find pleasure in the little things or how we prefer a false sense of safety to real freedom?
Learn from the interesting creature that we often take for granted. And be sure to teach the interesting creature that we often take for granted. Develop a real relationship with Canis Familiaris… you won’t regret it.