Thursday, April 23, 2009

My mantra

I love dogs. I have a tremendous amount of respect for these animals.
They bring me joy, I find them to make good friends, I love their capacity to learn and their need to be part of a social group.
But let’s get one thing straight: dogs are not intelligent.
Not in the way humans are. They don’t analyze situations. They don’t plan what they’re going to do tomorrow or next week. They don’t dwell on the past. They don’t study the world around them, wondering what makes the grass grow or what type of plants deer eat or why some animals live in groups and others live alone.
This is what separates us.
We do study the world around us. We have all sorts of knowledge about other animals. We know that elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, that female lions are the primary hunters in a pride, that a bear mother gets very aggressive when she senses a threat near her cubs.
We know so much about the behavior of the animals we share this planet with.
So my question is, why don’t we know anything about our dogs?
We bring a dog into our family, our household, and we expect “man’s best friend” to learn about us. And sometimes, some of us don’t even give them training, which is the least we can do to help them assimilate into our human packs.
The majority of the dog owners I meet know little to nothing at all about canine behavior. They don’t know how to properly greet a dog, they have no knowledge of body language — which our dogs are constantly using in an attempt to communicate with us.
They can’t see the signs of a dog who is distressed, scared, or seconds away from biting.
Over time, we may learn a little about our dogs as individuals.
“Buddy jumps up and down by the door when he wants to go out,” someone observes of their dog.
That’s great. Your dog has learned a behavior that catches your attention. He is trying so darn hard to communicate with you.
But meanwhile, you still know nothing about how your dog communicates naturally.
I urge everyone to learn a little something about canine behavior.
Start with body language. There are plenty of books. Go to a dog park and observe dogs interacting with eachother. You’d be amazed how quickly you can start understanding your dog.
After all, as the more intelligent species, shouldn’t the onus be on us to learn about the animals we bring into our lives?

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