The Dog, a Social Animal - Barbara Tullio * Paolo Caldora - traduzione Carlo Laertini

The Dog, a Social Animal.

As a Social Animal we intend a being that finds reason to exist only within the context of a community.

While not all social beings can live in communities composed of several animal species, the dog can. However, his sociality-concept is not one to live in a community made of many families, but rather it is to live in a community with a single family-unit that the dog considers his very own Family (The Family-Pack).

For the dog his Family-Pack is that small wonderful world where everything takes place for the well being of the Pack and where there is a sense of collaboration and attachment that allows its members to achieve a perfect social balance. While the dog can live in a place with several communities, for him however, “getting out of the house” means “to go outside the den together with the Family”... to do, undo, act, operate, play, walk and work as a family-unit… to “live with the Family and in the Family” in the same way both inside and outside of the den.

He lives in the Family and for the Family.
This concept has a very profound meaning, deeply rooted in Attachment.

Among all species, a natural bond is created from birth between Mothers and offspring. The latter needs it to survive and this bond becomes more and more solid, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day and is one that never ends.

Normally a Dog is kept with his Family until it is two months old, then he will be made to join an adoptive family.
This detachment from his natural family is an especially traumatic experience for this tiny being: in a flash the familiar little world he knows is gone forever and a new “unknown” world faces him.

When a puppy comes to the world, mother’s smell and warmth tell him where he is and it is her caring that directs him to life. He will follow the smell of milk to find Mom’s tits and start suckling; within Mom's warm fur he will find the right temperature for his little body that still lacks its own thermostat; under Mom’s delicate parental care, he will start on the learning path, comfortable and happy to be the center of all her attentions.

If all of this was to be missed, the puppy could not grow socially-balanced and his future would be full of gaps and uncertainties, too often identified as psychopathological imbalances but which are really and only due to educational shortcomings caused by the lack of that particular attention that only a Mom has towards her offspring; we, that have adopted him, can easily remedy these shortcomings by responsibly taking-on a behavior appropriate to his nature.

Mother is everything to a newborn!
Konrad Lorenz, in the (duck-specific) study of animals, noted the importance during the first 24-48 hours in ducklings’ life, to have a guide to lead them into the world! In fact, these newborn follow their mother’s every move and if she were to go missing, the ducklings would follow any other moving object.
This is called The Primary Bond, which is the newborn’s need to bond to someone who will take care of him and enable his survival. Which is not to say only to feed it, wash it and put it to bed but also and above all, to transmit a kind feeling by way of presence and contact. Indeed, it is the closeness between the two that feeds a psychological wellbeing.

The problem arises when we humans cannot see except with our human eyes and reason only with our human thoughts and concepts, which are quite different from the very simple ways of our Fellow Dog.
For this reason it is extremely important for us to learn Dogs’ natural language. That language is made only of parental care and specially-considered educational behaviors that besides being tender care, play, kisses and cuddles, are also rules-of-order never to be intended as authoritarian cruelty. Many of us tend to believe it is cruelty when we observe a firm educational reprimand by an adult resulting in a submissive response by a child who, against human expectation, reacts in a joyful manner and even sways with sinuous coy movements. This perception exposes our distorted human conception of under-the-thumb subservience, leading us to make puritan and pious utterances in the face of what we see while it is nothing but another way of saying “I am your beloved puppy, thank you for considering me as such”; parental care and educational behaviors are what needs to be understood as ''extremely valuable considerations”. This tells the family member: “you are important “ – “your inner balance is important to me” – “I really want you to grow healthy in body and mind”. In fact this very same behavior will be shown in the future when, as an adult, he will dote nurtured respect onto his parent.

To avoid falling into man’s abstract and fantastical misconception of the real expression of various animal species, we must point out that for an animal the “to be important” it means to feel part of you and what makes him most happy and complete is to be educated by you, as his Mom would do and to share with you moments of rest, leisure, work and the intimacy of home, with all that this entails.
It is not necessarily the best for the Dog just to provide the best food, to choose the cutest blanket, to bring him to the park to play with friends and to smother him with hugs and kisses; all of these only mean that you have become his butler, someone with whom he has a superficial relationship and a distorted one at that. Living with your dog means to look after him, as his Mom would do: food and hygiene yes, but also education and collaboration.
Mom shows her own attachment by stimulating the puppy first bodily functions and providing hygiene by licking him everywhere and she also shows it by giving him food (first with her milk and later with small pieces of pray once he is a little older); she also shows it by educating him in small steps for all which he will be up against as an adult Pack member; by admonishing him when he misbehaves and by praising him immediately after and by letting him rest besides her when it is time to sleep. She shows it by understanding when the puppy puts his paws on her ribs if he means to say '' I have a problem, can you help me? '' or if he means, '' I don't want to do what you asked me, '' and still shows it by being there for him when he is in trouble and when other siblings are hard on him and in many other different ways but, always, with one thing in common which tells the puppy “you are important”.
The puppy responds to all this by paying her festive tribute when he sees her and compels him to follow in tow when she goes for a walk, to be interested by her educational games and to be on her side when games become more serious, to accept and understand when it is time to be at leisure, to be serious, to rest, to ask, to give-and-take respectfully, because he is brought up in respect.
Respect does not mean “austerity” but “happiness”, happiness of belonging, the main purpose of a Social Animal that finds its identity in living with the Family.

Why is it that the dog kept in a kennel, more than any other dog, lives with extreme hardship? It is because he misses all that we have mentioned above! Let's go back and reconnect to the point of Mom’s smell, to the litter and to everything that was and is no longer: whether the pups arrived in kennels alone or together with their brothers, or they were born in the kennel, or that they were brought there with their Mom or not, the only certainty they have is that of their Family if they have one and if they don't, then they cannot be certain of “nothing”.
The location, the staff and anyone who will take care of them or a lone puppy as the case might be, will have to act as the Mom and become the den and the surrogate mother (Wolf-nurse) as it would happen in Nature (mom and dad’s Wolf world) when tragedy strikes down the Wolf-mother and the Wolf-nurse steps in to provide for the litter (if it is an already established Pack; otherwise ... the litter will perish).
Of course, I did mention Nature and Wolf because the Dog is a descendant of the Wolf, a theory which is now widely documented and erroneously misrepresented by many who want to recognize the Dog as a spontaneously born animal.
The dog in fact is the result of human manipulation of a subspecies of Wolf (Canis Lupus) called Canis Lupus Familiaris which is the subspecies that includes those particular Wolves that, approaching man many years ago, gave rise to the subspecies which generally encompasses them, or rather enclose elements of several subspecies that saw fit to leave the forest and to give confidence to humans.
But although the Dog has no natural source and is the result of variations upon variations upon variations by humans, the latter by fixing some physical and psychological traits in the various breeds, could not erase what mother-nature has wisely imbued in their ancestors and that is indelibly passed-on in all subspecies and their variations. I'm talking about a behavioral code more or less marked but nevertheless present, depending on the subspecies if we refer to life in the wild, and of the breeds if we are talking about dogs (when I use the word “breeds” I do it simply to clarify to the reader, if I'm talking about Dog or Wolf).

Going back to our Puppy…we were saying: the one who will deal with the little creature or creatures, will have to personify the Mom or the Pack’s Puppy-sitter.
It is important for who wants to adopt a Dog (mindful of the importance of familiarity and of the concept of sociality that Dogs live-by) that as a first priority the animal is allowed to become familiar with the adopter’s body smell so that he will no longer be regarded as a stranger but with time he will be transformed into a family member (the time it takes cannot be given in term of days or hours as it is highly dependent on each Dog’s personality).
If you try to compress the adoption/acceptance period, the adoptee might easily suffer detachment from his real family or from that place he came from (even though it might not have been a nice-place,) where in one way or another he had found a sense of belonging – either because the rest of his family was still there or had been there, or perhaps because in there was the person who had cared for him or simply because until that time he hadn't known anything better than that.
There are puppies who are readily happy to come away with the adopter; behaving this way they readily demonstrate what is otherwise not shown by those who keep somewhat on the sidelines but who, by doing so, are writing in giant letters their words of great desire to live their social existence in a real Family.

I mentioned only briefly the idea of adopting a young puppy but I would like to point out that what has ben described above is a brief summary to what is the beginning of a story equally valid for the young puppy, the older puppy, the adult and also for the older dog.

Useful tips.
Having brought our companion home, we should not be in a hurry to show it to the world; we should not be in a hurry to teach him right away all the house-rules and must not be in a hurry to demand him not to relieve himself where he is not supposed-to and expect polite behavior towards us and the rest of the family (if there is a someone else in the family).
As there are some very important things that he must evaluate, we have a duty to understand how long it takes and give him the time he needs to develop kinship with us and with everything else. It is important to let him learn the house, learn about the people of the house, absorb all the smells of home, introduced by the person who first met the puppy and to whom he now totally entrusts himself.
One must not be in a hurry to solve his little poops and peeing problem: if a dog has been accustomed to do his business in the box we cannot immediately expect him to understand that the home is not to be soiled. In his ancestral knowledge “soiling in the den is allowed and Mom does the cleaning; here, after having graduated from the box to the garden, soiling is allowed there and no longer in the box after which, having reached a certain age and in our case a certain confidence with us, there is the going out from the house-garden and to doing the soiling outside”. It happens, however, that some dogs, once out of the garden, refrain from reliving themselves until they return home and then as soon as they are inside they happily and proudly let themselves go. These creatures are unable to relieve themselves outside because they still don't feel quite safe yet to let their smell into the world outside, so wisely, they are only let go where they feel safe. With time they alone will decide to mess outside and when they do, it will be for them a real achievement! ... (Please note that for the garden is also meant a room or a particular place in the house, which could be, for example, the house entryway).
It may so happen that the little messes can occur at home as well as outside, due to a very simple need (he could not hold it any longer) or for a small insecurity dictated by a particular situation that posed a question which the Dog was unable to resolve and not knowing how to get out of that unsettling situation, pronto, he found that the best solution was to strengthen his scent with ''a little souvenir ''. It is not an act of dominance, and certainly not of spite, the latter being something impossible to be formulated by a dog, because it is an abstract concept that requires complex reasoning of verifications and assumptions, too complex for his simple mind.
One of the very first things we usually do as we welcome a dog into the family is to give him a name. The name is the identification of the individual and is what more than anything, distinguishes one in a group of individuals.
Maybe it is the easiest thing to teach our dog, because calling of the name is associated to very pleasant things, like a caress, a biscuit, a smile. However, be careful though not to believe that it is the caress or the biscuit or the smile that allow him to learn that that particular sound is his name; a dog does not have the concept of name as identification of a being and in fact, as soon as some confidence will take hold, that name will have value mostly in the dog’s documents or when we talk about him with a friend or any person. This is true because otherwise he would not look at us when sometime we call him mangling his name and more often than not by using various nicknames and cute designations. When we call him, our dog assesses our mental disposition and associates it to the sound of his name being called and it is this that leads us to believe (quite humanly so) that he has learned his name.

The aim of this brief dissertation is to urge who wants to share his life with these wonderful companions, to try and see things a little bit more from the Dog point of view than from our human prospective, this is because we can reason the way they formulate their concepts but they cannot reason our concepts; otherwise we could simply talk to each other without having to think much about it and there wouldn’t be a need for an in-depth study of their way of thinking.

The leash, the collar, the harness
The collar (be it an harness or a leash) is an object applied to the dog's neck, which does not have any negative connotation except when it is used incorrectly. Living in a society that requires the use of equipment to limit the range of your Dog, it is best to teach our companion to wear them first in the house and then outdoors. First we will have our friend wear a fixed collar made of soft cloth. “Fixed” does not mean a slip chain and not a semi-choke chain, but a fixed-length tape collar. We will have him wear it every time we think of it: as soon as he wakes, before he eats, before he gets out in the garden, before playing with him ... or just after, it makes no difference. The meaning of the collar is a connection: in nature when Mom moves the very young pups, she takes them by the upper part of their body and the trusting puppy lets himself be carried without objections (contacts with that part of the body have different meanings).
Depending on how the collar is made to wear and used, it can cause different “questions” asked to the dog and different “answers” given by the dog. Likewise, it will be for the leash which, much as the umbilical cord, it is the emblematic of the bond that unites two beings, but if this link is not a healthy one, then this connection can become an impairment. In the beginning the collar must be worn in a familiar environment, where the puppy feels peaceful and is not attracted by anything else but us and will easily follow us in the house with or without the leash. The leash is only a means to limit the chance of your dog getting hurt in a society that was not made to be user friendly for animals.
Anyway, the choice of the type of collar and leash is mainly up to you.

The harness: the harness has two distinct but somewhat related meanings depending on circumstances and (as always) on the character of the animal wearing it and the relationship it has with his partner.
The harness is in fact a “hug”, but a hug can be comforting or restraining. If we talk about old-fashioned harnesses, i.e. the “tow” ones ' and those “X” shaped ones, (usually both lined) they tell the Dog “we are with you” and urge him to go ahead secure of the bond that keeps Dog and Man united. These harnesses are used with dogs of the very famous Sled-Dog-Teams of the Nordic Ice Races and Dog-Teams engaged in sports where the connection with the driver is a fundamental requirement during training - the human companion has a leading role and through those tools, he says to his dog or dogs “I'm with you”. Different, very different, is the '' H '' harness, which is nothing but a device consisting of two strings one encircling the neck and the other around the chest and connected by two longitudinal webs. This type of harness, when the dog moves at a pace that brings the leash under tension, it will bother him in those two critical points of the body. It is the conscience and sensitivity of man that, even for this type of device, makes it a helping tool or not for the dog.

Hygiene - Cleaning of ears, eyes and coat brushing (grooming).
Cleaning of ears, eyes, paws and coat, are special attention and care items that every Mom or Puppy-sitter dotes on her little charges. However, these can be imposition acts because they require the puppy to be good and submit to inspection and cleaning. Seemingly strange, the need to stay clean is actually very important to the Dog and this awareness pushes mothers to continually inspect and clean their puppies from top to bottom. This cleaning includes removal of any traces of poops and pees and is equivalent to “not-being there”. Certainly Mom worries about what predators/hunters could be spying around the corner and is compelled to remove all traces of these unique smelling signs.
Gently but firmly, Mom and similarly the “adopter”, checks the puppy and through cleaning, verifies the health condition of her charge, doting on him his first parental care. Speaking of which: often when puppies complain, Mom’s kisses massage their little pink bellies and through those stimulating and satisfying warm kisses the creatures relax. This treatment has both an educational effect – “be good I have to wash you” – and also a calming one – “relax my little one, I am here for you”.

Do you remember the phrase they always told us when, as children, when we had pain somewhere or a small wound? ... “I'll give it a kiss and everything will go away”…indeed, it is exactly from this motherly caring behavior that this expression got its meaning. –Let us not misunderstand that the cures are simply the massaging kisses because they are much more than that, they are greater, more complete and it would be silly and shallow to interpret them only as ''caresses ''. Furthermore, these caring acts do not occur in ''non-intimate” situations: to adopt caring attitudes in “common” non-intimate places would be “out of place” and destabilizing at that.

The doghouse
The doghouse, kennel, crate/bed-box or the bed/blanket is just that private niche that can only intimate Pack members can access. If we had to define it with a more appropriate term to ourselves, we would say that it is our most private place. One must understand how important a place that is. It is a magical place that the rest of the world cannot access, a place where you can withdraw to be tranquil, to rest undisturbed or take refuge-to when you are not strong enough to overcome a problem. It is usually the place where the Dog awaits the return of family members or goes to when he needs to have undisturbed rest. For doghouse more often than not we mean the wooden hut that reminds us of the Dog den, but is can be the blanket laid on the floor or the bed and sometimes even under the bed. It is a very important little place that the dog should never be without.

Feeding is a moment like so many others but one that can be highly disconcerting to many people. To feed your Dog is the most natural thing there is: prepare the food, put it in his bowl and lay it in front of him. The dog eats more or less ravenously depending on his appetite and character. When Mom-wolf brings food to her puppies, she catches the prey (prepares food), places it on the ground (puts it in the bowl and hands it to them), letting the little puppies satiate themselves, without needing to check whether or not they will turn on her if she tried to take it back from them.
The latter situation makes no sense! Mother-Wolf or Mother-Dog does not take back the food and does not test to see if the puppy will growl to defend it. Why should they take back the food? They regurgitated to provide it to the puppies so it makes no sense to take it back and to act that way would show the puppies an unbalanced behavior! Whoever puts his hand into the dog-bowl to check things, shows insecurity to his dog that if the poor thing can tolerate it, then nothing will happen and if he does not condone it, then he either moves away from the bowl or clearly says '' but what you're doing? ''.
To put ones’ hands in the bowl when the puppy or young or adult is eating means:
-If we are the Leader: we inhibit him
-If we are on the same hierarchical level: we challenge him
-If we are a Subordinate: we beg him

Let us remember that for the dog the hand of man is like a mouth: another mouth in the bowl means a mouth that is stealing, competing for food or removing it with force.
When the leader moves away from feeding he indicates that he is leaving the rest of the food to the troops; He does not come back showing insecurity through an afterthought, he does not come back to question those who moved in to feed and he certainly does not come back to beg. If a man, to gain respect from his dog, puts his hand into the bowl while the poor dog is eating (not forgetting that it was him who gave that food in the first place), in addition to not achieving the purpose for his absurd intention, he is clearly sending messages of “unbalanced behavior”.
It is different if your dog picked up or stole food that he was not allowed to take (spoiled food, toxic, etc.); in this case the hand of man must intervene to open the dog's mouth and remove what it contains. This is an imposing behavior on the Dog, who accepts it only if he recognizes that who does it to him is a Guide; it is an act done for a good purpose and it should not be confused with one aimed at creating a conflict, because a conflict would already exists if such an act was not accepted.

Being left alone
It will not be a problem for the dog to remain alone once the house has taken a familiar aspect to him. In nature pups are accustomed to remain quietly in the den or rendezvous (backyard) area when the parents go out to hunt. Right from the beginning they are used to see Mom leave, even if just for a few minutes and disappear beyond the hill. Once the dog has absorbed all the smells of home and will feel part of the family, it will have no problem to wait there for the return of his family. Should he become bored it would be normal that upon your return you might find a piece of furniture or a rug a bit chewed up, which is akin to what we also do when we kill waiting-time by reading a book, watching television or doing small chores around the house. Therefore, slowly get the dog used to be alone and it will simply be a way to reactivate in him the memory of something he has always known: that during the first few days Mom leaves the birth-box a few minutes at a time only long enough to relieve and feed herself.
Only one but major recommendation: understand that by now the scents of family members are for him the only important essences, therefore let us not confuse them with smells delivered through special commercial diffusers. These are made to recall something that he has known, but that in the place where he now lives no longer have the meaning they had elsewhere and that might make the puppy fall in dismay, causing him to look for something that used to be very important, something which he can smell but that now does not connect to anything; in his new Home who owns that particular smell does not exist, has never been and never will be. The feeling that one gets from observing these poor Dogs who are exposed to that particular smell to keep them company, is one of tranquility. But this is not really so because the calm-looking animal is actually subjected to and living under, a form of total-absence apathy (autistic form).

The family is fundamentally important: let us remember that dogs’ concept of sociality is very different from men’s, even though is not wrong to share a few moments common to both species (conspecific). It is wrong to think that dog-buddies are more important than Family and to base the leisure hour only and exclusively on the taking him to the park. Sure it is Important that there is a group where he can express more canine manner than he can do with us, but it should not be the relief valve, nor the occasion to do something and to escape from a monotonous relationship that shares only a roof over the head and nothing else.
Pay attention also to the friends you choose: they need to be balanced and have respect, know how to behave and not ever show signs of impatience. Even if friends are the best and the finest in the world, never stop watching over the small playing group, never let a misunderstanding go unresolved or a clarification become a bit too strong, because they don't make much sense as it involves elements from different Packs that come together in a common territory which is really is no man’s land, with all the implications that it entails.

Play is the basis of a dog’s communicative experiences and is the fulcrum of cognitive growth. All actions and developmental stages pass through the rules of game playing, which are not to be only a recreational activity, but a ludic activity devoted to teaching what has to be dealt with in the future. We mean of course what occurs in nature’s Wolf-world, but since our Dog-son is not much different from his Wolf-father in the wilderness, it is important to establish a playful relationship with our own Companion. With ludic activities we mean those requiring global interaction between man and dog, favoring the daily growth of that bond that strengthens and empowers the relationship developed only in respect of individual traits and consideration of the subjectivity of breed and species. (I say breed not to exclude mix-breed, but only to emphasize a behavioral diversity and therefore demonstrative of a subject compared to another one).

Education is the collection of teachings, it is the set of rules provided to students and to our children to guide their personality towards a social conscience. When a Mom-Wolf teaches her puppies the basics of socializing, she does it with patience and politeness; when she needs to correct their wrong behavior she reprimands them in a firm and delicate manner, much more symbolic than physical, faking and even touching them too, but never so as to inflict emotional damage or bodily harm and she does it exclusively to teach a rule of conduct; the same thing happens when to interact is the Mother-dog with her young. Puppy-sitter-Wolves also behave in the same manner.
Most important to mention is the mood that a teacher is in when is about to communicate with his disciples. In other words, he must be in a balanced mental equilibrium in every situation, both when delicate or firm actions are required and remains so, without ever showing to loose his nerves. Remember that a Dog is a master at sensing your real inner mood. When we get ready to educate our dog we must do it thinking that in front of us there is a little dog needing to know what is right and what is wrong. This is because without knowing the certainty of some basic rules of social behavior he would be unable to live in the context of the Pack by taking a series of unsuitable behaviors that would destabilize him. The blame for his destabilization is not silly maladies, but only bad education.

Remember that all of our dog’s unwelcome behaviors are just questions that he is asking, questions that we have an obligation to respond-to, for his own good.
Any wrong behavior of our dog is not a sign of psychopathic imbalance but it is due to not having received suitable education in social behavior

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