Tag Archives: human psychology

Hierarchy & dominance

Yesterday I met a dog on the beach who asked me who is on top of the hierarchy in my pack. He had read my blog about knowing one’s place, where I state that Chuck is at the bottom of this hierarchy. The dog was curious where I stand. I thought it a very stupid question. I am on top, of course!

The dog who asked me this is not the brightest one and therefore it is not good if he uses his tiny brain for subjects that are too demanding for him. He’d better focus on necessary tasks (like finding food). That is why I gave him this answer. The correct answer to his question is not that simple. You see: a hierarchy in a group of dogs or humans or a mixed group is not static, but dynamic. Who is ‘on top’ depends on the task that needs to be done.

As I wrote before about the misconception of dominance, dogs and humans work together in a way that is best for a certain situation. Every group consists of leaders and followers, but they are not always the same humans or dogs. The human or dog who is most able to perform the task required is in the lead. So it depends on the task who is ‘boss’. I read in these management magazines (P reads them too) that it works exactly the same way in modern human organizations. There is no boss who tells everybody what to do, but there are specialists, working together.

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That is exactly how it works in packs of dogs and humans, too. Humans know the way in the complex human world, so they guide us there. It is their speciality. Dogs know the way in the natural and spiritual world, so we guide our humans there. We teach them to be patient (when we do not come when called, for instance), to be clear in their intentions (you cannot lie to us, we see right through you) and we give comfort in hard times. Our hierarchy is fluid, it changes according to the circumstances.

Anyway, that is too difficult a story to tell the dog with the tiny brain, so I just told him I am the boss in our little hierarchy. He is a terrible newsmonger, I am sure he will tell all the beach dogs that I am the boss. Good! That’s great for my image.

Losing my cool

I am a cool dog. Now that I am grown up I know what I like and which dogs & humans I want to be friends with. All else, things and dogs and humans, I ignore. So I can stay cool, all the time.

However there are some things that really annoy me. Like these:

1. Dogs that come creeping towards me, with their gaze focussed on me. When this happens, I snap. Humans don’t understand this, some of them even get angry. They say ‘but my dog just wants to play!’. Play, ha! This is not playing, this is what we do when we start the hunt. I do it when I see rabbits, cats and toy dogs. In which case, by the way, M loses her cool. But that is a different story.

2. Nervousness. When I was little I got nervous too whenever I encountered a nervous dog or human. Now I just get angry and I want to discipline that human or dog. It helps, you know, because then they go from nervous to scared or from nervous to angry. Both are much better emotions! These emotions lead to action, while nervousness paralyses. So it is a good thing that I lose my cool when I meet nervous humans or dogs.

3.  The neighbors’ dogs. They are way too often trespassing my territory, my street. How I would really really like to have a good fight with them! Not playing rough, but truly fighting. I don’t know why humans do not allow us to fight. A good fight solves so many things, grudges and other problems. We dogs should get the change to fight more often. It can be a big relief!

In a way, losing one’s cool isn’t too bad. It relieves, it helps others to take action and it gives good strong energy you can use for something you love. Like chasing a friend.

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Knowing one’s place

We dogs are easy to understand, if you know what to look for. We live by a few simple rules. Hierarchy is one of them. To us hierarchy is very important. That makes sense, because we live in groups. In groups of dogs or humans, that doesn’t matter to us. In a group you need a  hierarchy to function. Wild dogs need this structure to hunt and get their food. Can you imagine what would happen if every member of the pack would do as he pleases, one chasing a squirrel, the other chasing a rabbit and the rest of them snoozing in the sun because they ‘don’t feel like doing anything today’? Right: they won’t get anything to eat and they will die.

A lot of modern dogs do not need to hunt anymore. We are city dogs and farm dogs: we get fed by humans. But still we need hierarchy. It gives clear rules, a structure for us to function in. Like humans, we like to know the boundaries, so we can feel safe and free inside them. No structure means uncertainty and we do not like that. When there is no structure, we will make one ourselves. It comes natural to us, as you can see when dogs meet for the first time. They will sort out the rules and the hierarchy pretty quick. I noticed that humans do the same: as soon as they meet, they start exploring each others position in order to sort out the hierarchy. Funny, hey? Humans and dogs do not differ that much, surprisingly.

Like I said: we dogs live in groups and it does not matter to us whether it is a group of dogs or humans. We call it our pack, either way. My pack consists of M and P and Chuck. Sometimes it gets enlarged with other temporary members, friends from M and P or me. But this is my core pack. We have a strict hierarchy. Chuck is way down this hierarchy. That is why I let him sleep on my bed, but he has to stay on the ground. And I sleep in the chair. Which is more cosy and soft and also higher. We dogs take things very literal: higher in the hierarchy also means higher in height. A dog that sleeps on the sofa, the bed, in a chair is higher than the ones that stay on the floor. Like Chuck. I can even remove him from the cushion on the floor if I feel like it and he won’t complain, ever. Chuck knows his place, our hierarchy is very clear.

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Rude dogs, lazy humans

I find it amazing how silly humans can be. Some humans, I mean. Especially humans with bad mannered dogs. Where I live there are some areas where dogs are allowed to run off leash: the forest and the beach. In Holland everything is very orderly, there are designated areas and rules for everything. I don’t know why, but when you don’t comply you get a fine and that means less money to spend on dog cookies. Which, of course, is bad news. So M complies with these rules and I agree with her, concerning the cookie-consequence.

Anyway, we go to these dog-off-leash-zones a lot. And sometimes we meet bad mannered dogs there, running off leash too. When we are harassed by such a dog and our human tells the human with the bad mannered dog she doesn’t like that, she often gets the reply “this is an off leash zone, so my dog can do as he pleases”. Truly, that is the answer we get a lot. Amazing, isn’t it? As if an off-leash-zone means you can do anything you like! As if it is not their concern that other humans and dogs are being bothered by their dog.

I find this very strange. And very unwise, too, from the point of the bad mannered dog and his human. Humans usually end up in an argument when this happens, but we dogs don’t do arguments. We strike. Not the shy and polite dogs, they will hide behind their human. But dogs like me, we don’t accept it when another dog annoys us. Especially when I am with my friends, the bandidos. When a human is too lazy to discipline his mean dog, we will. We actually like doing it, so I hope we will meet one again soon.

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Yoga

I have been with humans for almost three years now (I’m turning three in October), but I am still surprised about them. Take yoga. Sometimes M and I do this together and then we call it doga. M really likes doing yoga and she even reads books about it. Yoga is a bunch of exercises, some of them hilarious, but it is also what humans call a philosophy about how to lead a good life. Key aspects seem to be living in the now and concentrating on the breathing.

That is funny. Why on earth would you concentrate on the breathing, something that comes natural to every living being? It doesn’t need concentrating in order to work! I think there are loads of other things worth concentrating on, things that need concentrating because otherwise you will miss them. Like good food.  Humans can really make things complicated!

I find the other key aspect, living in the now, very silly too. Of course you live in the present, where else would you be? It is the only time there is! I know a lot of humans are busy regretting things that happened in the past and they worry about things that might happen in the future. That is such a waste of time. You can not change things that happened in the past and you have absolutely no clue what will happen in the future. The only sensible – and by far the most enjoyable – thing to do is live in the now.  To us dogs this is common sense. Have you ever seen a dog regretting things he had done? Or concentrating on his breathing? It would be very funny!

Apparently humans need yoga to tell them basic knowledge like this. That is odd. I must add to this that M does do a lot of yoga, but she breathes naturally so she has no need to concentrate on that (except when she tries to run with me). And she lives in the now, always. Well, most of the time. In this picture she is doing yoga, not doga because I didn’t join her. I was just enjoying the soft mat, as you can see it was kind of rocky on this campsite.

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How to talk to dogs

Humans talk a lot. To each other and to us, dogs. But maybe you noticed that we dogs don’t talk to each other, at least not in the way humans do, with words and sentences. So the short version of the answer to the question ‘how to talk to dogs?’ is: you don’t.

We don’t actually mind when humans talk to us. We are polite enough to listen to all this blabla, no worries about that. M for instance talks a lot, to other humans and to me as well. I’m okay with that, it is the way she is and I respect that. But with humans and canines in general the trouble begins when humans seem to think that talking to us is the same thing as communicating with us. That is a big misunderstanding.

Let me give you an example. I was at the beach and a big labrador was happily rolling in a dead fish. His human did not like that and called him. When he finally came, she said to him (in a high pitched voice): “You naughty dog, I told you not to get yourself dirty. I thought we had agreed on that, don’t you remember?” I can tell you we all laughed very loud at this stupid human and the lab laughed with us. This human interacted with her dog as if it was a child and that is just not how it works. I don’t expect this works with human children either, but that’s another story.

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Conclusion: talking to us is not the same as communicating with us. If you want to communicate with us, please take a look at how we dogs do it. We do not use words, we use energy. We pick up each others energy and know what the other needs. Like respect.

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Energy is our most important tool for communicating. Besides that we have all kind of subtle ways to tell each other what we want.

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And less subtle ways, too:

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But the most important tool is energy. Not only between dogs, but also in the human-canine interaction. We don’t need words, we feel what humans feel.  For instance: when a human is stressed, we sense it. Balanced dogs will try to calm this human, stressed dogs will get more stressed.

All this means two things concerning communication:

  1. You can’t fool us with words. We tune in into your energy, so we feel what you mean, despite the words you choose. You cannot lie to a dog.
  2. When you really want us to get your message, make sure your energy is in sync with what you tell us. When you tell us to be calm but you are stressed yourself, it won’t work.

So what about the lab who was rolling in the dead fish? Well, he and his human have an issue that is a bit bigger than just communicating in the right way, because the lab obviously has no respect for his human. I can’t blame him, I would feel the same towards a human who talks to me like I am a bad behaving child. There is something wrong in their relationship and they should work on that, by applying my magic formula of fun, companionship & love.

For the rest of the humans who do have a good relationship with their dog: if you want to communicate with us, be fair to your own feelings and energy and be fair to us. Be genuine, be balanced and only tell us to do things you find really important. Not out of some whim, because we will feel you are dishonest and we will not oblige. By the way: rolling in a dead fish is very high on our bucket list. So please do us a favor and let us enjoy that moment. You can always (oh I hate to say this) give us a bath afterwards.

The power of rest

I like to relax. In fact, all animals do. When you take a close look at us, you will see that we are active during a small part of the day. I mean really active, when we run and hunt hares and bite burglars and play. The rest of the day we rest. We sleep, we snooze, we doze.

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And that is fine. What is more: it is necessary in order to stay healthy. Humans don’t differ that much from animals, they need to rest too. The odd thing is: they don’t rest enough. They are doing loads of things that aren’t logical from a canine point of view. They have to work, okay. I don’t understand why, but they all do so apparently there is a necessity to work in the human world. But then, in the time they should be resting, they do the most silly things. They look at luminous devices for hours on end, which isn’t relaxing at all with these lights en noises. They go shopping, which means buying stuff they don’t need because their houses are all ready full of things they never use. They are busy in their houses doing things that are totally useless, like cleaning – why bother? It will get dirty again!

I am surprised by all this. Sometimes I hear humans telling each other about their hobbies, all of them time and money (also hugely important in the human world) consuming things. They do it because they want to relax, they say. I don’t get it. The best way to relax is to rest. You can do it anywhere, anytime. It costs nothing at all. Humans should try it! It is good for them and for us who live with them, because more rest means less stress. And we all know it is better to live with relaxed humans.

So please, my human readers: rest more. Sleep, snooze, doze. Even better: relax together with your canine friend. Cosy!

Samen relaxen