So You Have a Dog?
© Donald I. Craig, Jr., 2014
“We have had civilizations without horses and even civilizations without the wheel, but never civilizations without dogs. No dogs, no humanity.” – Piero Scanziani, Italian journalist and author. Dogs were the first domestic animal with which we developed a close association. Mitochondrial DNA research suggests that most domestic dogs have been genetically separate from wolves for at least 100,000 years so that we have associated with dogs for as long as we have been around as a species (Homo sapiens). Indeed, some enthusiasts, including Colin Groves of the Australian National University, in Canberra, believe that our success as a species is partly due to help from dogs.
Many people think that when they own a dog, they own a piece of property and they have only legal responsibilities towards the animal and its care. That is true under the law but there are many more things to consider. We are all attracted to cute puppies or the sympathy of a misplaced or maltreated animal and many times our decisions to buy a dog are heavily shaded by these feelings. As time goes by we learn that the real cost to us is the commitment of quality time. A dog kept outside, chained up and ignored is not a pet. It is a constant reminder that we fail the dog and ourselves if we do not commit our time, a caring attitude, and ourselves to a real relationship.
Why is this so? It has to do with the more than 15,000 years history between man and dog. The modern dog is not the wolf of ancient times; although there is still a great deal of that ancestry in the dog, they have become much more in physical and behavioral terms. There are now over 400 different breeds of dogs, of every size, color, shape and description. Purposeful and accidental breeding by man has produced useful, skilled and faithful dogs that have written a history of working and living with mankind for thousands of years. We now have a genetic pool of dogs which offer us a wide choice of helpers and companions.
Besides all of this there is another factor. In our zest to train and breed dogs for useful jobs and duties, we have discovered that they are a means to extend our senses in many ways. They can see movement of game in low light conditions; they can smell thousands of times better to locate what we are seeking; they can hear sounds far sooner than us; they can anticipate our needs and actions; they have stamina and courage in special situations. In short, they are grounded to the “here and now” and give us an “extended reality” which no other animal can provide. These abilities have bonded dogs to us to a far greater extent that ever thought.
Dogs are regarded as man’s best friend, but those of us who have them in our families know they are quite a bit more. Out of the millions and millions of species of animals on the earth, the dog is really the only one who has shown any care about the human species. The dog has the capacity to become a family member in good standing. They can provide social interaction and loving care to their family. Their unique social abilities have grown to the extent they can be a real benefit or burden to a family, it all depends upon how they are accepted and treated. . But like all good relationships, it takes knowledge, training, responsibility and loving care to develop and keep such relationships.
The personalities of some dogs are such that they are content with food, water, and an occasional romp and affection. Others are quite demanding, and will dominate the entire family if allowed. Every one of them is different, and not always displaying the behavior expected of their particular breed. If you truly want a dog as a companion and member of the family, you should pay attention to some factors that will help you, as well as the dog, adjust to life together.
Rules for keeping a dog:
1. You should educate yourself regarding the care, feeding, grooming, and health requirements of your dog, including any special needs for his breed.
2. You should be aware of legal responsibilities for keeping a dog, and provide fencing, leashes, licenses and vaccination certification, as required.
3. You should study and learn a positive method of training your dog, and take responsibility for all training, including basic leash training, elimination, barking, behavior in crowds or with strangers, and good manners with visitors and other dogs. This rule is especially important if you are going to show or compete with your dog.
4. A dog deserves respect. He has feelings and emotions, however limited, and his companionship will require that you watch out for his welfare, and predict, in advance, his needs. Pay attention to him and give him his space.
5. A dog must understand what is expected of him. He knows little about human affairs or your particular requirements, so he must be educated to your daily life. You are his Director of Human Affairs.
6. Whether they understand every word or not, dogs like to be talked to. They like the sound of the human voice. They can anticipate situations and commands by listening to your words. It has been shown that some dogs can understand about 1000 words and their meanings, so eventually, your words will assist you in communicating with your dog.
7. A dog should never be beaten or harmed by physical violence. A certain amount of physical contact may be necessary in emergency situations, but if physical punishment is used regularly, it will destroy trust and the communication skills that the dog has learned.
8. Be prepared for the unexpected. At some point in time a dog will use the things he has been taught in unusual ways. His behavior may be appropriate and serve as a wonderful memory of the dogs’ abilities, or it may be inappropriate and cause consternation and embarrassment.
If you are lucky enough to have a dog that becomes a “family dog” you indeed have a treasure that will serve you well. They become part of the family and anticipate and respond almost automatically to events and happenings. They experience real joy in the daily things that go on, no matter how routine or insignificant they may seem. Familiarity breeds contentment with the family dog.
I believe there are angels among us: some are in human form; some have a wet nose and tail.
The dog remains an unequaled gift to Mankind. Through this gift man has discovered a loyal servant who can lighten his burdens and enrich his life. All he must do to receive this gift is to provide understanding and love. Such a bargain can only come from God.
|Series Title||Dogs and their relationships to Us|