What kind of owner? – To understand another living being, or even a person from another time, you can do two things.
- We try to imagine ourselves in their life – but this is quite difficult,
- Or we can try to rewrite his world in our terms, in which case it may be easier to achieve results.
To unravel and map the relationship between dog and man in the present, it seems appropriate to use the second technique.
So what kind of owner does the dog want?
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is through a story:
Albert, a responsible, senior manager, has to make difficult decisions every day. It’s no wonder that one day he’s tired at work and decides to take a break. However, he knows himself so well that the tranquillity of a Mediterranean holiday by the ocean, surrounded by palm trees, does not help. You’ll eat something else. The idea of a grand adventure tour takes hold. He is about to leave home for months at a time, and far away. He sets his sights on a remote corner of the world where people don’t go. However, as he wants to enrich his life, not lose it, his nomadic adventure needs companions and a trained guide.
First, he recruits a group of like-minded people, and then together they look for a guide. After much deliberation, the group of managers and chief officials find a suitable person with very good references and a well-edited website. The manager asks for his money, but this is only a positive aspect for the members of the company.
Three months of preparation, gathering important equipment, getting vaccinations, etc… Then the day they’ve been waiting for arrives, their plane lands at a dusty South American airport, from where they are taken by a convoy of jeeps for five days into the depths of the jungle. After unpacking and setting up camp, the trucks leave them alone. From then on, their only contact with civilisation is a satellite phone.
The party, weary from the fatigue of the journey, find it difficult to rest, but on the second morning they set off as planned. Before they do, however, the guide briefs his team, signalling if anyone has any problems to let him know. The loaded group crosses a gully at the start. They are finding it very difficult to move and what they had expected less and less in the past few days is happening, danger is creeping into their lives. One member of the group is swallowed up by the marsh and, to add to the tragedy, the phone is taken with him.
Accusingly, people used to power in civilian life ask their leader: “How could this have happened?”
With no reassuring answer, the tour continues. It is not possible to know whether the return journey is longer or the forward one.
However, the swamp has left other clues. Barely a day after leaving it behind, one man is knocked off his feet by a fever. Within two days, half the team, seven more men, had fallen ill. The medicines they had brought with them did nothing to help, and one of their companions died.
Dissatisfaction is growing, and trust in the tour leader has by this time been completely shaken. The ghostly gnomes of the night keep them terrified when they sleep, and during the day the impenetrable jungle thicket sucks what strength they have left. The constant tension drives some of them to the brink of madness. On many mornings of a seemingly endless journey, a banker plunges into a precipice. The abyss swallows him forever. But the senselessness of his death sounds an alarm in their minds. Many of them try to take control of the situation, but this does nothing to help them, only increases their losses. A series of bad decisions will result in more deaths. One eats a poisonous berry, another is eaten by a snake, a third is moved to the edge of a tower and watches helplessly as the dense wall of jungle closes in behind him.
The team is falling apart
The team falls apart, demoralised and weakened by constant fear to the point where their lives are in grave danger.
Meanwhile, one of the team members, who has shown confidence from the start, avoids danger after danger, and even those who listen to his advice. It is hard for the company to give up their pride, but after a series of setbacks, they listen more and more to his admonitions. Seeing the others’ improving condition, Albert is the last to give in and accept the new leader. It is not the man’s first trip of this kind and he has experience, and although they knew this before, they did not attach much importance to it at the time.
From then on, they take turns watching over each other’s sleep at night. They are briefed on what to watch out for, and if the sounds of the forest indicate the approach of a dangerous beast, they wake the group and fly together to confront it. They dare to sleep soundly now, and as they rest in their slumber, they have more and more strength left for the day’s march for food. The haunting cacophony of forest sounds no longer gnaws at their strength, and slowly they all begin to make sense of them. When a bird is what, why it alarms, that a loud roar is only to protect its nest, but that small squeaks can also signal great danger, etc.
The new elected leader is doing a good job, and the team is not only regaining its strength, but is also becoming more energetic. Although their opinions are voiced, they no longer interfere with decisions, leaving them to the one to whom they owe their successful survival and renewed vigour.
Albert, when he thinks back on the trip years later, still feels good despite the sad memories. To trust in the will of another, to believe in its infallibility, was a gift he might not otherwise have received. It took a completely foreign environment and such a series of events.”
What kind of owner is a good owner
Analogies between this story and urban dog ownership today:
When a puppy comes to its owner, it is a predetermined set-up, the former is the subordinate, the latter the leader. At this point, even if only for a short time, the owner is in the position of leader. In the unknown world, the puppy flees to the human, stays on its feet and cautiously explores its environment. Dogs basically want to respect their owners, but humans often fail to keep their dogs’ respect. If the two-legged’s decisions do not seem to be justified in the dog’s world, a multitude of small inconsistencies confuse the dog, which leads him to further weaken their relationship by countless independent initiatives. There are, of course, differences, some dogs are more eager to avoid obedience from the first moment and others are more tolerant of their owner’s mistakes. However, even the toughest, most stubborn four-legged friend will respect those who are aware enough of their responsibilities.
However, if the human does not behave in this way, he may be able to feign authority to the dog to such an extent that the dog will ignore him completely.
Respect, prestige is a great treasure, and it is not enough to earn it, we must also be able to keep it.
Just as the jungle is an alien world full of unknown stimuli for humans, so can urban life be hostile and incomprehensible for dogs. Think of a dog visiting a block of flats when the sound of a rubbish bin suddenly startles him, or a drill banging away at 8am, but everything from the banging of exhaust or firecrackers, to the offensive smells, to the lights flickering at night.
The stressful state
Just as humans are unfamiliar with the jungle world, dogs can be constantly terrified of new and new dangers. Constant preparedness saps their strength, weakens their body and their resilience. Note that this stressful state is not always visible and it is therefore no coincidence that urban dogs are in the state of health they are in.
The role of the leader
If you have a support in the unknown world, a leader who has shown by his or her actions that he or she knows his or her way around, his or her presence can ease the tension. If something frightening appears, I just look at it, if he hasn’t noticed it yet I draw his attention to it and if he remains calm, I can ignore it.
It’s no different for us in the jungle, and for our dog – referring back to the panel house – when the drill goes off. The presence of a good leader, a good master, turns off the stimuli below a certain level, and above that, it serves as a pattern to respond to. For example, jumping up in fright at the noise of a drill, looking at his calm master, he relaxes again, and, having learned that there is nothing to fear from this sound, he will not react sensitively to it next time.
The ideal relationship
This is how we should imagine our relationship with the dog. A well-balanced, consistent owner, even in an environment full of stimuli, can easily control his dog and it will have few problems. Even a dog that is more sensitive at birth can become a calm, predictable companion. Perhaps many of us have experienced the phenomenon of how a problem dog can change when it finds a new owner. However, it is not a matter of changing hands! If one admits their mistakes and starts to take action to become a responsible leader, it can be almost miraculous to see a transformation in both of them. However, to do this, you need – first and foremost – a human being.
“Of course, because he knows dogs!” – many people might say. But that’s not true. The experience is correct that you cannot “understand” dogs. Many people who boast of such virtues have failed miserably. Dogs need to be listened to, and, going further, we need to listen to ourselves. As attention to ourselves fades for some conceited reason, all our previous “knowledge” is lost. That is the greatest miracle of all:
The dog keeps us alert, sensitive to ourselves and to things in the world.