Having a dog is a good reminder of the realities of life, from the good to the bad to the essential, bare-bones of existence, if you can pardon the pun. So here are seven things my dog reminds me of on a daily basis.
1: There’s no such thing as unfair.
If we’re playing tug of war with a rope and I use one hand and she grips with her mouth and uses her paw to loosen my hand, she isn’t cheating. If she shakes her head violently, she isn’t cheating. If I shake the rope and pull it away, I’m not cheating. If I hold it out of her reach with both hands I’m not cheating. There is no such thing as fair or unfair in reality. You can’t explain these concepts to a dog. They’re human ideas designed to keep a human social order, that vary from culture to culture, person to person and day to day. In life, anything that gets you ahead is fair. All anyone can do is stop you getting ahead.
2: Violence is necessary.
Puppies and dogs play by fighting. Their games involve ripping, tearing, pouncing, chasing, crushing, pinning… They learn the pressure points on each other and on you. They learn bite inhibition: how hard they can bite before it hurts. Their entire entertainment package is fight, fight, fight.
Because violence, whilst not completely inevitable, is necessary. You need to be able to vanquish your enemies, kill your prey and scare off your predators. You need to learn to be violent even if you’ll never use it, whether you’re a rabbit, a dog or a human.
3: Prioritize your long-term survival.
The average dog doesn’t think twice about stealing your food when you aren’t in the room. It takes a long time to teach them not to steal because their basic instinct is to eat. You need to teach them that their wellbeing is at risk if they steal. This is because a dog puts its long term survival ahead of anything else. The main drive is to survive as long as possible and whatever gives the best odds of that, wins.
4: Don’t hold grudges.
Whether you “cheated” in a game, punished them for stealing food or unknowingly hurt them, they don’t care. After the act, once the order is re-established, they just want to carry on as normal. If you are repeatedly hurtful, they adapt their behaviour but do not become vindictive. A dog lives in the moment, adapts to change and, as such, does not hold grudges against you, even if you hurt it.
5: Learn as much as possible.
The puppy can’t keep anything out of under her feet, in her mouth and up her nose. Leaves, dirt, dead animals, flowers, bottles, toys, ropes, wires… It takes a long time to chase her away from exploring.
On the flip side, she is always eager to please. It may take 20 or 40 goes, but she will learn that command and enjoy learning it, whether for praise, treats or just the fun of it.
The point is, she’s always ready to learn. The more you know and adapt, the healthier, more efficient and happier you are as an organism. And dogs have this nailed. Learning is a pleasure to them.
6: The pack order is your existence.
Dogs are constantly vigilant for changes in the pack order. They work out who’s in charge very early on and act according to the perceived pack order. Some dogs may decide that the teenage son is clearly running the house and some bitches put themselves before the children after their first season. The pack order dictates every part of their life and it needs to make sense to them.
There is always someone leading and if you refuse to lead they will lead for you.
There is always someone issuing commands and if no commands are issued they will worry.
Every position in the pack is always moveable and if they think someone has dropped out, they are eager to fill in.
And even in human society, if we adopt the same approach we make progress.
7: Enjoy life.
Ultimately, whatever you’re doing with it, strive to have fun. Dogs will turn training into games, enjoy learning new words, practise fighting and role play as different pack members. They will run and jump when there’s free time, grab the best bites of food when they can, cuddle anyone who’ll cuddle them back and try and ensure everyone else is doing the same thing.
After all, whether you’re on this planet for fifteen or eighty years, it’s way too little time to have it all and way too much time to be so serious about it.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!