Have you ever had the opportunity to see dogs functioning as a pack without too much human influence?
I had a couple of day trips to some small islands in the South Pacific recently and I was very excited to see stray dogs everywhere. However, on closer inspection I could see these pack dogs were not in good physical shape. I guess that is to be expected in this sort of environment.
What I did see though was a very healthy functioning pack, they all knew their place and did their jobs beautifully. So, physically these dogs were no good but mentally they were phenomenal. In our country, it’s generally the other way around. We so often think our dogs are happy because we live in nice homes and buy them soft beds etc but that is not the case. The number of dogs in the first world that are suffering with mental issues is beyond belief, yet we dismiss this because as humans we cannot get our heads around the fact that we spoil them so how could they not be happy.
The other thing that astounded me was that a ship load of Aussie’s got onto the island and nobody ran up to the dogs with excitement wanting to pat them. What a foreign concept! I’m so used to seeing people wanting to pat and excite dogs but everyone was respectful of their space and vice versa. I even saw a little puppy (about 14-16 weeks) taking food from a little girl calmly, it wasn’t jumping or nipping at her, it had already learnt respect and how to be around humans. The islanders themselves are all very calm and relaxed. These dogs are not their babies and they are treated just like dogs! I know right ………. treating a dog like a dog, it’s unheard of.
All the dogs were so calm, respectful of space and self-assured. One dog was asleep on the beach for over an hour while hundreds of people walked around it. It was so comfortable and relaxed, happy and trusting of its environment. Once again, no one tried to pat it or even went close to it. WHY can’t we do the same thing here with dogs?? Why do we always feel the need to pat them, excite them, we turn them into monsters then reject them.
It was really an amazing experience to see these dogs so happy and understanding of their status in their pack. The dogs at the bottom were much thinner than the dogs at the top but that was ok. They were all happy. Sure, they all needed veterinary attention but that made no difference to them.
The dogs would wait patiently next to people with food, they never tried to jump up or take food unless it was offered. Remember, none of these dogs have done puppy school or obedience classes. Their human leaders set the rules very early on and they follow them, it’s that simple. None of them sleep in peoples beds or get dressed up in doggy clothes, they don’t go to doggy day care because they can’t be left alone at home, they don’t get rewarded for doing the wrong thing. They are not treated like humans at all, it’s beautiful to watch.
I understand we live in a different world to that, we have different privileges and access to much more but what we can replicate is being calm, relaxed and confident around our dogs. Teaching them right from wrong, not promoting excitement and bad behaviour because it’s cute. There are so many things these islanders could teach us about how to have mentally happy dogs. We need to stop being selfish! We need to fulfil our dog’s needs over our wants daily!
I was also at a small resort where the resort dogs were allowed to roam around, there were signs up “Please Don’t Pat the Dogs” which I loved. The dogs in the resort didn’t harass you or come into your space, they simply did their thing. They never tried to run away or misbehave, they were peaceful and happy.
In our country, we have the opportunity to give dogs the best life possible, both physically and mentally. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could allow ourselves to treat a dog like a dog? I treat my dogs like dogs every day and they love me for it. They trust and respect me, they don’t create any stress for me and we all live in harmony together.