I hear over and over again from people talking about their dogs, including those who send photo submissions to the site of their pets, those who submit applications looking for homes for dogs they rescued, and dogs they themselves are giving up. They say, "This dog just needs love and attention," or "The dog just wants to be loved." The interpretation of a dog’s wants and needs being only love, food, toys and shelter makes me sad. It is the reason there are so many homeless dogs out there. Don't get me wrong, dogs enjoy love and affection, but that alone is not what makes them happy.
Dogs are pack animals that have an instinct to live in a structured environment with order and rules. They want more than love; they do not crave love, they crave leadership and they need to know the rules and their boundaries in order to be secure with their surroundings. A dog has an instinct to constantly test the being above it and an instinct to know it will be tested by the being below it. Instinct tells it that if there is not a strong being in charge, its life and the lives of the rest of the pack are at stake. It is a constant test, and not one that always stays the same. In the wild if the leader of the pack becomes weak in any way the followers start to retest the order. The next strongest minded dog will test the leader. If that dog wins the challenge, the pack leader will be bumped down in the order and the entire pack will reevaluate the ranking of all of the members.
Dogs are not wolves and they do not have as strong of an instinct as the wolf, but they did evolve from the wolf and still do retain many of the same behaviors. All dogs are a mammal of the Canidae family, of the order Carnivora. Canis lupus familiaris is a domesticated subspecies of the wolf. Commonly referred to as a canine, dogs have instincts, which we as humans have a responsibility to fulfill.
These instincts are not something they consciously think about in the way a human would sit and evaluate a situation. Dogs are animals that react to the moment.
When dogs live with humans, the humans become their pack. Whether you realize it or not, your dog has an order of the pack in its head. In a lot of households the leader is the dog. It is very stressful for a dog to have to take over the role of leading humans as it can never be in complete charge. Humans will always do things the dog does not approve of, for example, leave the house for work. It is when dogs perceive themselves as the leader in the house that a lot of unwanted behaviors emerge. Some humans deem these behaviors as "traits" and "personality." A lot of humans tolerate the bad behaviors, but a very large percentage of humans do not. They get rid of the dog for behaviors that absolutely could have been corrected if the humans had changed their ways. Dogs are one of the most misunderstood animals in the world.
One story that comes to mind is about a man who had just rescued a Labrador Retriever. He said that for the first few weeks the dog would just look at him and growl. He gave the dog lots of love and affection. Then one day the dog walked up to him and pushed its nose into his arm begging to be loved back. He said from that point forward the dog loved him back. The reality is that the dog was growling at the new owner in order to establish who was going to run the new pack. When the dog was satisfied that the new owner was below him in the order he went over and demanded to be petted by pushing into the human, nudging his arm up. When the human complied to the dog’s demand and pet the dog the deal was set; the Lab was now the leader of the new pack. The owner had said that the dog loves him but is not so sure about everyone else. This was not the dog loving him, it was the dog taking over.
This Labrador Retriever will now have to live out his life trying to control a human who will sometimes listen to him but sometimes not. This will put a great deal of stress on the Lab. A dog that is living with humans and is in charge of the humans is not a happy dog, but a stressed dog, as he will always be worried with trying to keep the humans in line and safe from harm.
A lot of people ask if a submissive follower dog can still be a good guard or watch dog. The answer is a BIG yes. The best guard and watch dogs out there are those who listen to their owners and watch their owners for direction. Should the owners not be able to direct, the dog can and will instinctually still protect their pack. Stable-minded, stress-free, instinctually satisfied dogs make the best watch and guard dogs.
All over the world "man's best friend" is misunderstood, misread, confused and stressed. Most humans misinterpret their dogs’ intentions and what the dog is trying to tell them. Dogs are confused as to what exactly the human wants. Their instincts are not being met and they go a little crazy as a result. The humans mistakenly interpret them as happy, but they are actually stressed, anxious, confused and under-exercised.
For example, when you come home after being gone it is not normal for your dog to rush you at the door, jump up and down and/or be extremely excited. It looks happy to the human, but it’s actually stress. Try it. Stand up from your computer chair and start jumping around like your dog does when you come home. If you are too embarrassed now to try it because there are people around, try it later on when you are alone. Do it for five minutes straight and you will give yourself a headache. That is just one of many common dog behaviors that people see as normal, when actually it is a very unnatural way for a dog to act. When someone achieves balance in a dog you find a dog that behaves very differently than the average dog that lives with humans.
This clip shows an example of two balanced dogs, Bruno the Boxer and Spencer the Pit Bull. In the beginning of the clip it shows the human coming down the stairs for the first time in the morning. Then it shows the same two dogs being fed. The dogs are calm, relaxed, happy and respectful. It's not normal for dogs to be hyper and tense, although unfortunately due to the fact dogs are not getting their instincts met, most pet dogs in the USA and abroad are not balanced. If we humans want to keep an animal captive we have an obligation to give them what they instinctually need as the animal that they are.
This is what Spencer the Pit Bull often does when someone comes to see him. He gets one of his bones or toys and brings the object to the person. Notice the way he turns in a circle. That is a submissive gesture. He is calm and happy and he would never dream of jumping up on someone. This is another example of what a dog looks like when you achieve balance. He is excited, but not to the point where he is going to give himself a headache.
If there were more balanced dogs in the world there just may be more dog-friendly places that allow you to bring your pet with you. Everyone loves a well behaved dog.
To achieve this you must satisfy all of the dog’s instincts, provide enough leadership and exercise, the dog must be secure with its surroundings, and you must be able to speak dog to the dog and understand what your dog says back to you. If more dog owners were educated in natural dogmanship and took the time to satisfy their dog’s natural instincts the pet overpopulation problem would drop drastically. Dogs that are balanced are extreme pleasures to own and therefore would not be given up so easily. When the demand for a "new" dog goes down, fewer litters will be bred, as breeders will not breed what they cannot sell.