We’re all products of society, whether it’s cultural, communital or familial. As members, we adhere to a set of norms and standards that allow the society to function – laws, traditions, personal conduct. It’s the human glue of civilization.
But we are not alone. Animals are also products of their societies, it’s hard-wired in their DNA; think of penguins, caribou, even bees. But it’s also acquired – consider the tool-using species like chimpanzees, elephants and ravens. Wired or acquired, these learned behaviors ensure survival of the species. It’s that simple.
I recently had this epiphany while watching a show about northern wildlife, particularly in relation to canine society. The show’s host / explorer trekked into northern hinterlands around the world and observed the behaviors of different species in their respective pristine environments. While the survival strategies of each species fascinated me to no end, it was wolf pack behavior that blew my mind.
The host discretely observed a wolf pack from afar at first, but it wasn’t long before the wolves approached him, checked him out and essentially accepted him into the pack. They licked him, they gently mouthed him as they do among themselves to show affection; there was never a hint of fear or aggression in their behavior. Nothing like the legendary lupine reputation as top-of-the-food-chain lethal predators.
The alpha male was the first wolf to embrace the host and then the others followed in a structured and orderly manner. Trust me, humans aren’t nearly as civil and disciplined, just read the headlines. Need I say more?
All this to state the obvious: that sociability is hardwired into our dogs. Treat them fairly and respectfully and they will reciprocate. Isn’t this all we want from our pets, that is, to develop a mutually rewarding and respectful relationship? You don’t have to take your dog to obedience school to understand this. Create your own little just society with your dog and the rest will inevitably fall into place.