The hunt made the dog, not the hand of man. In all of Dogdom there is only one theory, model and training system predicated on the above belief; Natural Dog Training.
For thirty five years this fundamental tenet of Natural Dog Training has been running against the grain of conventional thinking and consensus science; both of which sees the dog as having been made fundamentally different from the wolf through human selection for friendliness, submissiveness, docility. Just recently, Simon Gadbois, PhD, a prominent researcher of the canine mind wrote:
“We spent centuries working on selectively getting rid of aggressive behaviour in wolves and purposively making them more docile… “
This has never been my view. In fact when breeders misinterpreted friendliness as good temperament and selected for docility, for example the Doberman Pinscher in the sixties and seventies, they produced friendly AND sickly progeny. Since dogs are ubiquitous in our world they are easily misunderstood as being understood, even by scientists.
Now, a new book by Pat Shipman, “The Invaders,” puts NDT on a firm anthropological footing (just as “Design In Nature” put the flow concept of NDT on a firm thermodynamic footing). In brief she theorizes that early man learned to hunt cooperatively with wolves (or some type of wolf-proto-dog) and their partnership drove Neanderthals into extinction. The Wall Street Journal provides a visual synopsis of her theory below.
So not only did the hunt make the dog, but it made the human as well. The truth is always more powerful than romantic or sentimental treatments. I have no doubt that in a few decades consensus science will be saying: the hunt made the dog, not the hand of man.
Since the seventies it has been clear to me from working with field, protection and police dogs that hunting; specifically, hunting a large dangerous prey, defines a dog’s makeup and its capacity to attune, align and sync up with human beings. The hunt comes first, sociability follows, not the other way around. This is why all interpersonal relationships carry the thermodynamic signature of the Predator relative to Prey dynamic, i.e. that which can project/direct force relative to that which absorb/conduct force. This is also why all the things we see dogs doing as they adapt to human ways, are actually variants of hunting, from snagging a frisbee, rounding up kids in the back yard, the joy of a car ride, the compulsion to bolt through an open door, the unbridled ecstasy of sled dogs in harness, police and search and rescue dogs, food/toy guarding, agility training, and so on. I was led to this conclusion by studying dogs as creatures of the immediate-moment, aka, emotional beings, which as it turned out is synonymous with saying social. Sociability isn’t about companionship, that’s just a wonderful derivative of the deeper group dynamic. On the deepest architectural level of the animal mind, sociability is about turning change into information. Or put another way, sociability is the capacity to turn stress into Drive. This is why when one has allies one feels empowered and why conversely, being shunned by the group can make one feel powerless. The support of friends increases one’s confidence even though they aren’t actually going to be helping in a material way. Hunting, and being hunted, makes affiliative behaviors extremely adaptive and has become ingrained in our nature.
In the nineties the Coppingers argued that an intentional process of domestication by capturing and raising wolf cubs was not possible because as soon as wolves become sexually mature they will take off to breed, never to be seen again. And since genetic change has to happen across a large population that houses the range of variation required to produce genetic shifts, and so must therefore span a multi-generational length of time, it isn’t feasible to contain that many wolves long enough to render a domesticated variant. The Coppingers proposed the village dump theory which posits the wolf as scavenger of dump sites so that the most approachable wolves became domesticated. The appeal to this theory is that domestication was inadvertent, it doesn’t require keeping a large population of wolves captive and well fed, and seems to correlate well with the behavior of free ranging dogs in villages around the world as well as with a Russian fox breeding experiment which produced a domestic like version of a fox in just twenty years. This theory also correlated with the evidence, unchallenged until recently, that the domestication of the dog coincided with humans beginning to live in villages.
However the theory fell short for me because it doesn’t account for the prodigious appetite in domestic dogs for the hunt, and most especially for the capacity of a working dog to take on the most dangerous and physically superior of all prey animals, an armed human criminal. (Thermodynamically we can call this taking the path of highest resistance.) In fact the Coppingers argued that hunting was something that had to be encouraged in dogs, they weren’t really all that into it. I found this especially incongruent given that the Coppingers are active and expert in sledding dogs which exhibit an incredible drive to work. And for what do they mush?To go from point A to point B?
In my view, their field observations around the world were showing them dogs of low drive (high drive dogs are quickly killed off by cars, farmers, people they menace) and, these dogs are also “bleached out” from having a lifestyle of total freedom. Like water not contained in a vessel they always follow the path of least resistance. Having access to garbage and human handouts they’ll never become “charged” to the point where they can be channeled into hunting in a manner of the human’s choosing.
But even if proves true that the village dump was a critical factor in the domestication process, it cannot be the definitive factor since only the wolf, of all the species of animals that frequent village dumps, was able to produce a domesticated version of itself. In my view the village dump no matter what degree it may have been instrumental, was in actuality selecting for that individual wolf who could see the human as hunting partner, not friendliness, otherwise dumps in regions without wolves should have also produced fox-dogs, coyote-dogs, raccoon-dogs just as well as it did wolf-dogs. Why only the wolf?
When one trains a dog in protection, one is both predator and prey to the dog. Too much predator, the dog becomes afraid. Too much prey, the dog also becomes afraid. But a little more prey than predator, then the dog becomes aroused and learns to love the work and bite without inhibition. In other words, one must become a “vulnerable moose” to have the right emotional affect on a dog. And I learned from this inter-species communicative process that hunting is a process of EMOTIONAL REGRESSION from the adult mind back to the infant mind under the pressure of the prey’s predatory aspect. Then, by being in sync with its group (a supportive handler petting and encouraging), the predatory aspect of the “moose” (me) is being perceived sensually rather than sensitively. Aggressive “inputs” (mock stick hits) by the helper are sensually arousing rather than being perceived as painful and knocking-off-balance. A sensual attuning to a predatory aspect is the imprint inculcated during a pup’s first formative weeks, i.e. the predatory aspect of their mother (she knocks them over) induces pleasurable emotional affects (she cleans their anal/genital area and then settles about them to nurse). This sensual affinity to the “negative” is why pups bounce back from hard knocks so easily, and then become far less resilient as adults who can be broody for days and carry a shock forever. In the infant mind, emotional oral urges are unrestrained, unfiltered, and then go on to become the basis of a whole body sensuality. Thus in the hunt against a prey that can generate intense resistance, the adult mind of the wolf is regressed back to its physical memories of litter hood, the mother wolf being the template for the moose. My model sees nature as a continuous whole, a flow system, rather than nature being a system of disconnected parts running into and grinding against each other.
Dogs are the most social, sensual, AND AGGRESSIVE species of animal on earth. And the only way to reconcile these three fundamental traits is to understand the overwhelming role that hunting played in the evolution of the canine mind and the evolution of the emotional bond between canine and human.
Meanwhile consensus science wrestles with the adaptability of dogs to human ways in the following manner:
“Is it possible that dogs are able to read and use human gestures because they co-evolved with humans, endowing them with a specialized human-like type of social cognition that their ancestors missed out on? Or, is it that dogs are such an integrated part of our lives that through our daily interactions they learn that paying attention to our body language pays off?”
Lucia Lazarowski, PhD candidate.
Her research with shelter dogs who weren’t living with humans but who nonetheless experienced a rich enough environment so that they developed normally, indicated that exposure to humans was necessary.
“Our results seem to suggest that exposure to humans and the opportunity to learn about the meanings of gestures plays an important role in dogs’ ability to follow pointing.”
But this kind of linear, binary thinking depends on a cognitive interpretation (“meaning of gestures”) will miss the obvious point of the significance of human gestures to the animal mind. What always stands between an animal and what it wants is Resistance and exposure to humans is only necessary so that the dog can become sensually aroused by human resistance, which is the most intense to be found in nature, rather than remaining sensitive and thus limited by instinct.
In the domesticated dog the puppy mind can survive into adulthood whereas as wolf cubs mature it is displaced by personality and instincts, the only exception being when the infant-mind of the adult wolf is RECAPITULATED in the hunt. This is what early man would have ended up selecting for, the most puppy-like Proto-Dog in the hunt, the most uninhibited about biting the wooly mammoth, not the most docile. This would then render a more sensual, social, AND AGGRESSIVE companion.
In “Your Dog Is Your Mirror” I posited the “shaman scenario,” wherein early man somehow connected with wild wolves in order to hunt a dangerous prey. I was drawn to this view by the example of Aboriginal whalers in New Zealand arriving at a working relationship with Orcas to herd whales into the Bay of Eden where they could be killed by humans, then to be left overnight in the water for the Orcas to feed on the tongue. This pact between humans and animals was called “Covenant of the Tongue” and was even picked up by Western Whalers in the 19th century. In the link below we can now look to the same kind of relationship currently underway between an indigenous people and land animals.
There is no other book on training that discusses the canine/human connections wholly in terms of the hunt other than “Natural Dog Training” (1992). Hunting inculcates the deepest emotional connections, not only between comrades in the hunt, but paradoxically as it might at first seem, between predator and prey as well. Emotion is the universal operating system of all animal consciousness, in YDIYM I said that if two individuals (or species) have an object in common, they can potentially communicate. And if they share an object in common that can’t be attained without the other, they can potentially connect. Emotion is a networking intelligence, domestication is just one adjunct of its evolutionary force. Its most basic line of code is “negative-as-access-to-the-positive.” This is how ravens lead wolves to a carcass they can’t open on their own, and why wolves look up and follow them. It’s one universal code and it is most manifest in the domesticated dog.