There are two things that both humans and dogs share at a very primitive level. These two things are at the core source of our relationship to our best friends since time began.
Where and how you eat and where and how you sleep is a building block from which we have formed a close partnership (originating in wolves) for many years.
In order to understand four legged animals better, a human must break him or herself down to simplicity. We must all be conscious of where our food comes from (the earth) and our need to attain territory (a house, a ranch or a condo. on 5th Ave.) We also must realize that in order to keep warm, we used animal’s fur to create clothes, assemble tools, etc.
Dog’s still remain connected to these primary instincts in a way that has become quite foreign to people. If it’s not foreign, people don’t really think too much about it. They still go about their day, on their cell phones at the gym, on Facebook, at their job or driving around in a car. Dogs still go out and sniff the ground, chase the cat or bark at the dog passing by their house. They eat each other’s poop, mark their territory and growl when they have something that they don’t want you to take away.
When they eat food, they see the food coming from the bowl (no longer from a hand or thrown a few extra pieces of meat). They don’t have to hunt for this food because we didn’t hunt for it (unless you consider going to Whole Foods or Safeway a form of hunting). So in truth, there’s no point behind it other than they (and we) are hungry and it tastes good. Food has essentially lost it’s meaning to both humans and dogs.
Let’s suppose you and your dog had to survive. Dog’s have a much better sense of smell- some dogs are even bred to hunt wild boar and the like. Even if you have a Chihuahua, you may be able to catch a lizard or two with a more powerful nose. If you had to rely on your dog to find food, you both would have to assert some form of exercise and travel.
There is something about this primitive excursion which makes the dog more satisfied. Exercise away from the home where both dog and owner travel by foot before meals is key to tapping into getting back to being an animal yourself and understanding your dog on a more profound level.
After spending weeks hunting in the rockies with two wolves and three dogs to find kill sites, I know what this feels like. The satisfaction of working for food is something so bonding and yet so primitive. If you truly want to become close with your dog, exercising before meals and allowing the dog to see you eat first while they cool off is key. Once you hand the bowl over or feed from your hand, the dog realizes the job was well done.
Sleep is another form of becoming closer to our dog’s on a ground level and understanding how our best friends view the world. Where you lay your head at night is a key statement of your status as well as your independence. A good leader in a dog pack asserts independence by sleeping alone (within proximity to other dogs) and prefers to sleep inside warmth or on top of something to look out. Your bed is your high point from which to see in case the pack needs protection. Your role as leader (you are the leader simply by giving food) is to protect your pack. This means, dogs sleep on their beds in your room on the floor and you sleep in your bed at the highest point.
It is time we understand animals from their viewpoint instead of assuming they should understand us from ours. It is also time we understand that we are all animals and not to forget that just because we have made advancements in technology, growth and discoveries such as oil doesn’t mean we still can’t be connected to other creatures and the earth in a more authentic and grounded way.
“What is a man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die form great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man.” – Chief Seattle