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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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, 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
-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
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