Archive for January 26, 2009

“We have dragged them far from their own realm”

In his Sur l’universalité de la langue française the Comte Antoine de Rivarol writes:

“Thus nature and the chance happenings of life furnish animals with signs which means that the kind and number of such signs are greatly limited. Only humans are capable of furnishing them with artificial and varied signs, which, for the animal are neither natural nor representative.”

“When we start to treat animals in this way, an insurmountable hurdle soon arises; we have dragged them far from their own relam without transporting them into ours; and the vast majority of our signs still express needs they do not have and ideas they do not conceive.”

As Rivarol wrote, all animals — including dogs, have their own signs and languages.  The dog’s language is built primarily upon scent and gesture and his signs are far simpler and more natural than ours.  Because human ideals like fashion, commerce and rhetoric are “needs they do not have and ideas they do not conceive,” much of our behavior makes no sense to the dog.  But because all dogs are masters of reading and interpreting human body language we forget how limited their comprehension of spoken language — and of the complex, modern human world really is.

And there lies the rub. While living our own busy and complicated lives we tend to forget that, skilled as his deceit may be, the dog doesn’t understand our language or the odd cultural constructs of our world. Then the poor dog is blamed for “behavior problems” created by an unfortunate combination of miscommunication and unrealistic expectations — not willful disobedience on his part.

Most dogs live in an alien world dominated by strange beings who, for the most part, behave in ways that make just enough sense to keep them guessing.  We make a little sense — and a lot of nonsense.

When dogs behave badly the root cause is often is that we have “dragged them far from their own realm.” Stop dragging  your dog, slow down and find a way to lead him.

January 26, 2009 at 3:58 am 2 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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January 2009