Dogs are animals, and animals learn according to the protocols of temperament, not according to the acuity of a mentality. There are two fundamental questions the canine temperament evolved to solve, and to this day, these issues determine the behavior of the domesticated family pet.
1) What is the prey?
2) Where is the danger?
If an owner fails to answer these questions according to the manner by which a dog’s temperament understands the answers to them, then ancient instincts kick in and fill in the blanks. Such knee-jerk reflexes always take precedence over anything the owner may think they have taught their dog because these mandates reside very deep in a dog’s instinctual makeup. Then, when a critical moment occurs and triggers these primal matters, since the owner hasn’t imprinted appropriate responses, these hardwired instincts overwhelm months upon months of training, – no matter how religious the regime may have been. And while canine instincts may be appropriate for wolves living in the middle of nowhere where everything stays the same and all canines know the rules, instincts are always dysfunctional in mans’ world of constant change, even more so since the neighbor’s kids, the mailman, or the innocent passerby does not know that these rules of life and death are in play.
Fortunately, there is an aspect of the canine body/mind that is deeper than instinct. If a dog is raised in a “natural” way so that it acquires an imprint by which it ends up agreeing with its owner as to what the prey is and where the danger is, then the dog will be 100% reliable and 100% under control, no-matter-what might be going on around it. In a moment of high drama or crisis, such a dog will feel attracted to its owner, since the owner has the answers the dog needs to resolve such situations.
When a dog is part of a group that satisfies these two questions, it feels safe and it trusts that the information their owner is communicating will prove to be 100% satisfying. Dogs do not need to learn to be social. They need the answers to the above two questions.
In this blog, I will discuss a number of traps in the matters of house training, obedience, manners and “socializing” that undermine a dog’s innate sociability, – because in the overall scheme of things they fail to answer these two questions. It is our hope that the articles and posts on the NDT site will help you avoid committing these common errors.