Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's Natural?

One question I have been pondering for so long but can't seem to quite articulate: What is a "natural" environment for a dog? They are not wolves, they are a domestic species. Man made so to speak, so "wild" wouldn't be natural. Reliant on man??? I think so, but I don't know. In a home? Probably an extreme. With many or it's own kind or a limited group. It seems the indians kept dogs, they kind of free ranged as a group right? What is their "natural" surrounding? How is the best way to study their "normal" behavior? In a controlled environment? In a free for all? In a home environment? I think so much in canine behavior is dependent on human influence. I don't think it would ever be possible to neutralize this stimulus and really see dogs be dogs. Any thoughts???

Hi, Mel, you ask great questions. These are domesticated dogs, not wolves or coyotes or wild dogs. It's important to study all the ways dogs live. Wherever they go with us becomes their environment whether natural or not. Hi-rise condos are not natural, but dogs live there. Urbanization is a phenomenon that started in earnest with the industrial revolution in the late 1800's. 
We've dragged our dogs with us into a civilized less natural environment. Planes, trains and automobiles are as much a part of our dog's lives as they are ours.
Except for events like a meteor plowing into the planet, change in nature takes a long time. What's natural about the way we've bred dogs? Could a Chihuahua exist in nature? Or a Great Dane? God did not do domesticated dogs, we did. Their behavior is dependent on our influence from genes on up.
A "natural" environment would perhaps be an agrarian setting, where the dogs have enough space to run & sniff doing doggie things. I am part Inuit, my ancestors lived with dogs in frozen tundra; there's a normal environment.
By studying them in all these environments we get a better idea of who this creature really is.

Here in Puerto Rico is not a better way; it's just different. Pets get health care, these dogs don't.

For studying dog behavior it is fantastic here because when you control the dog even by manipulating the environment by feeding, you change the behavior outcome. The organization and adaptability of the organism is observed here in a way that isn't possible to replicate in a lab.
I've spent a lot of time learning about dogs, reading, and seminars. The last twenty-five years we've lived with an average of a dozen dogs at a time. I've trained a large number of dogs. I started doing behavioral consults, which is my expertise.
The last four years I've learned things about dogs, I couldn't when the dogs were under my control or another person's control. It is what I refer to learning about the essential dog.
I'm guessing most folks who work in an animal hospital have played the game where you guess what the person/owner will be like when they come to pick up the dog. (If you haven't met them) Our pets are a reflection of us as much as they are breed type.
One belief I changed is that I believe a dog should spend the first six months learning more about the dog language. Our pets do not know their own language well enough. It may sound silly but the better they know their own culture, the better they fit into ours. Make sense??

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