The Dog Grumbler
IF we ever meet, you will likely notice that I can talk forever about dogs.
When I work with individual owners and dogs I talk non-stop but never have time to mention all the things I’d like to cover – people send me home long before I’m finished.
I always touch on a few central principles; clarity, repetition, consistency, ritual, faith — you probably noticed.
I usually make the point that dog ownership is good for humans and I often see people’s eyes glaze over when I extrapolate.
Nevertheless, extrapolate I shall — feel free to lose interest.
Dogs make us better people.
I say this a lot.
We evolved together and are, I like to think, natural parts of a greater whole.
Our dogs understand how we feel, they understand this better than any of the other non-human creatures on earth.
Our DNA says we are related more closely to chimpanzees, but at our best we behave more like our best friends.
We understand family and home the way they do.
They respect and shelter the elderly while tolerating, protecting and educating the young as do we humans.
We both need to live in company with others and survive through trust and cooperation, be it in packs or teams or towns.
Sure, there’s lots of ways we differ; they can’t ride a bicycle, take out a mortgage, open a fridge, stir a wok, change a spark plug — there’s probably lots more…
But check the other side of the balance sheet.
Dogs have a Herculean work ethic – they want a career pleasing a good boss.
They are proud to work on our team.
They demonstrate loyalty, fidelity, courage — important concepts in our world and theirs — and they judge us not by our possessions or our beauty or by the things we say, nor by our skills or talents — but by the things that we do.
And as we learn to understand them, they make us better humans.
When we use sounds and body language and ritual to communicate, we build a private language — we learn to use bits of our brain differently, to think outside the box.
When we need therapy, we can talk to our dog; verbalise and process our thoughts to someone who understands, cares and will keep a secret.
When we need a reason to get out of bed we always have someone who depends on us.
The more consistent we are in the things that we do and the way that we feel and behave, the better they understand us and the better they respond with the kind of behaviour we want.
They reward our integrity.
They reward our faith.
They make us better people.
In return we can make them better dogs — able to thrive in a human world; we can show them consistently, what pleases us and what displeases us and have faith that they will reward our patience and integrity.
They don’t see what we see, they don’t hear what we hear.
They have no concept of a reality based on words and pictures, just as we cannot envisage a world of scent and movement.
But they are trying.
I like to think we are getting better.