“I need to stay with my mom at LEAST 8 weeks.”
No, no NO!
The Pack Instincts (Do Unto Others What You Most Hated Having Been Done Unto You) have an insidious and apparently unshakeable hold on the human psyche. The poster below is a good example as to why there are so many reactive dogs walking our city streets and country lanes with their well-meaning and misinformed owners, building a charge and ready to explode when the parameters for discharge are met. When I used to breed German Shepherds I always took the pups away from the mother once their sharp, shiny, needle studded vise-gripped jaws could start to hurt her and provoke her to retaliate. This is not “discipline” and the instillation of “manners” as the poster below romantically theorizes. Even if this meant I would start the pups on gruel sooner than I’d like, it was worth it because it meant they weren’t going to be infected with “the charge.” But by the same token, I insisted on keeping the pups until 10 weeks if not 12 weeks so that they could get the rough and tumble play with their litter mates all of whom were at the same emotional level. When things got too intense between them, because they couldn’t yet process Resistance into Drive, they would naturally deflect onto a “group trigger,” looking for another object to bite and then there would be a gang fest on this “emotional midpoint.” And then again if one of the pups was more developed than the others, I would remove them from the litter even if that meant I had to do all the rough and tumble play with said pup.
I was first introduced to this notion as a young boy given that my father believed the mother dog taught her pups the rules of the pack. I have written that I just saw fear in both the mother and the puppy. The Monks of New Skete went on to popularize this notion of pack discipline, Cesar Milan believing this to be the case as well and bringing it to the attention of the modern, progressively thinking dog owner. However the one person in Dogdom who has probably done the most to intellectually substantiate the logic stream featured in the above poster so that it has become imprinted in the minds of the current generation of dog trainers/behaviorists, is Ian Dunbar. He has stated that the reason puppies have needle sharp teeth is so that their grip will produce an intense spike of pain which will compel the adults to discipline them. Again he sees this as being in service to cooperation once they are adults and functioning members of the hunt. But being that I am the only one to have developed a model for dog behavior rather than ascribing a human-like psychology for the dog’s mind, I have discovered a different purpose. I call the pack instincts: “anger management tools,” and not only is it not the source of cooperation, it actually serves to LIMIT the individual’s capacity to cooperate. It is a governor on the canine mind and is the source of most behavioral problems in the modern dog, from noise phobia, resource guarding, disobedience, addiction to owner syndrome not to mention reactivity and aggression.
In my model, what sets the canine species apart from all others, save one, is that the individual’s hunger for contact is greater than their singular capacity to satisfy it. This hunger-over-balance emotional ratio was amplified exponentially by the domestication process so that it’s possible to induce a dog to want to bite anything we want them to bite. Another way of saying this is that dogs end up wanting what we want. This cannot be said of any other species. Such a high emotional capacity makes the domesticated dog social-by-nature and highly cooperative. In order to become individually satisfied in their respective Drive-to-make-contact, they must work together to overcome an object-of-resistance great enough to satisfy everyone’s hunger. Therefore, the reason puppies are born with needle sharp teeth is that they would otherwise shred their soft gum and jaw parts as they attempt to crush hard sticks and bones given that their hunger for contact is so strong. The teeth sprout so quickly and so razor sharp in order to PROTECT their soft tissues.
What then is to limit the wild dog or wolf from taking on too difficult a challenge? Fear. Fear follows the path of least resistance. So with an innate aptitude for hunger-over-balance, canines are drawn to the path of highest resistance, a large, dangerous prey animal, but then within this domain their fear as inflicted on them by the adults in the pack, will tune them towards the weakest of these, the young, the infirmed, the wounded and elderly. So the mother wolf putting a whooping on her young cubs is adaptive because it tunes them to the proper frequency of emotional wavelength so that they will not unnecessarily risk injury against, or unnecessarily stress, a healthy robust prey specimen.
The problem for our domestic dogs however is that we always require them to be cooperative, to always choose the path of highest resistance within any given domain. Don’t chase the neighbor’s cat, don’t react to the outstretched hand of a child, don’t be unsettled by direct and sustained eye contact of a stranger, don’t attack the dog who wanders near your food bowl, don’t growl at the vet trying to draw blood, come when I call you, etc., etc.. In all of these scenarios we’re asking our dog to resist the influence of fear and the compulsion of millions of years of evolved instinct, that while functional in the wild, are dysfunctional in human civilization and result in millions of dogs being euthanized.
When it comes to raising a puppy in man’s world, mother doesn’t know best. Her job is to limit cooperation. Instead, we need to learn to follow the ways of the heart. Please join me in Portland Maine for a fuller exposition of these ways.