|Chester (The- Mad Little- Turnip|
|Barked: Thu Apr 2, '09 11:12am PST |
|The Dr Michael Fox study on stressing puppies is very interesting and foundational, Tia, although I think you'd have a hard time finding a site on it. When did the internet become the cave of truth anyway? At any rate, that is science. Mildly stressing puppies leads to more social confidence, higher learning rates, larger brains. That's social, or I have always thought it was, particularly when layered against the hellfire reputation that surprise singleton puppies often have. Many of the breeders I know and respect, and ALL of the breeders I have gotten a puppy from, practice what this study recommends, as do I when I am puppy raising. Well over two decades now, and the only dog I ever had a problem with is this kook head, whose tyranny my big dogs indulged. One day he got a stern correction from a foster, and that sort of popped Chester's bubble for a time. That's worth mentioning as well in the subject at hand, given my large dogs' reluctance to correct Chester's tyranny in his formative stage. That one burp was it in all my years of raising dogs, though. PERIOD. And given that I traffic in two of the most infamous breeds in terms of social behavior meltdowns on the planet....the Am Cocker and the Giant Schnauzer....who are absolutely marvelous ambassadors for their respective breeds, I continue to find Dr Fox's study to be fascinating and to have tremendous rates of applications as regards raising dogs into sound adults. Most breeders who put it into practice feel that it does much to decrease the odds of fear-based aggressive response. Many, including myself, feel, when practiced with compassion, that it develops in the growing dog a solid capacity to sustain well under stress, which really to me the puppy raiser is the greatest gift I can offer. Both my dogs and myself have enjoyed the fruits of that and the life's liberties it brings for many years. With plenty more to come.
WHAT THE HEY!!!! - I'll put this up from the goodly Dr Fox....
Finding The Wolf In Your Dog
by Dr. Michael W. Fox*
Of all the myriad members of the animal kingdom, the domesticated dog (Canis familiaris) is closest to us. With individual exceptions in other species, this canine species is the most understanding, if not also the most observant, of human behavior—our actions and intentions. This is why dogs are so responsive to us, even mirroring or mimicking our behavior. And it is why dogs are so trainable.
Fear in un-socialized and abused dogs interferes with their attentiveness to and interpretation of human behavior and intentions. This is one reason why wild species like the coyote and wolf, even when born and raised in captivity, are difficult to train. The wolf ‘Tiny’, whom I bottle-raised and intensely socialized during her formative early days never really lost her fear and distrust of strangers.
As I describe in my book Dog Body, Dog Mind, ‘Tiny’ did not start mirroring and mimicking human behavior until she was close to 9 years old; at which time she began to mimic the human-to-human greeting grin, revealing her front teeth as she curled her lips into a snarly smile. In my experience, dogs who can do this do so at a much earlier age, even as early as 4-6 months.
In comparing and contrasting how socialized (human-bonded) wolves and dogs have related to me as their parent/care-giver figure, alpha pack leader and playmate, as well as to my family members, friends and strangers—I would say that the main difference between the two species is this fear factor. Differences in trainability hinge on this and, as I theorize in my new book, domestication has altered the tuning of the dog’s adrenal and autonomic nervous systems. This tuning (to dampen adrenal fright, flight and fight reactions and possibly alter brain serotonin levels) is accomplished through selective breeding for docility and gentle handling during the critical period for socialization. For dog pups and wolf cubs, this happens from soon after their eyes open to around 8 weeks of age. According to the earlier research of my mentors Drs. John Paul Scott and John L. Fuller of the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, pups with no human contact during this critical period (that ends around 12-16 weeks of age) are wild and unapproachable.
In the 1970’s, I developed the Super Dog Project for the US Army to improve the performance and stress resistance of dogs in combat in Vietnam. This was based on my earlier research on early handling and tuning of the autonomic nervous system.
When we peel off the wolf’s innate fearfulness and put it on the dog, we turn the dog into a feral facsimile of a wolf. But a human-socialized wolf without fear could be an extremely dangerous animal, attacking a human perceived as a pack rival. This happened to me during the filming of the NBC documentary “The Wolf Men”. An alpha male wolf, along with his female cagemate who was in heat, had been released into a large, wooded compound belonging to my friend, the late wildlife illustrator and conservationist Dick Grossenheider. The she-wolf had greeted and solicited me, a total stranger, earlier when I had visited the two wolves in their enclosure.
I am not saying that a male dog would not react to me in a similar way under comparable circumstances. The closest to it was my being urinated on by the alpha male lead sled dog of a well-known racing pack that greeted me and solicited my attentions between the wires of their enclosure.
The genetic, neurochemical, physical, sensory and cognitive differences between dogs and wolves are considerable and are a consequence of the domestication process where docile, easy to handle/eager to please and compliant dogs were preferentially bred to better serve various human uses. Similarly, the differences between breeds (as a consequence of selective breeding) are no less considerable. Therefore, within their own species, dogs differ far more from each other than do wolves amongst themselves. But in their deep heart’s core, there is a commonality of origin, spirit, emotional intelligence and empathetic sensibility. While the wild wolf looks through us, the dog looks to us.
These evident differences in canine temperament I see as indicating that dogs initially domesticated themselves. Those who could most easily tolerate close human presence became the shepherds’ and livestock keepers’ ally against wild predators, poachers and thieves; or the game hunters’ super-extended senses and agile cohort for the chase, alone or in a pack.
We see many things in our dogs’ eyes, the windows of their souls. They are also mirrors of the human soul since every pair of dog’s eyes reflects how well that dog has been treated by our own kind, for better and for worse.
We see devotion, patience, expectation, joy and pain in dogs’ eyes just as we do in each other’s. Dogs read our eyes and are attentive ethologists of human behavior, action, emotion and intuition. A change in tone of voice can make a dog tremble in fear or dance and yap for joy. Such ability to read human behavior, intentions and emotions was naturally selected for as dogs domesticated themselves and adapted to life with Homo sapiens, the killer ape.
The secure, well-loved and understood dog is more often an extrovert than an ambivert wary of strangers. Secure, well-loved and understood wolves, in contrast (with few exceptions, some of whom become more easy-going around new people and in new places as they grow older as did Tiny in her early teens), are more often ambiverts or introverts. They are fearful when meeting unfamiliar people.
Differences in individual, breed and species autonomic tuning (sympathetic-adrenal-parasympathetic balance and tonus) account for differences in disease resistance, temperament and learning ability.
But regardless of these dog and wolf differences and similarities, divergences and convergences of their evolutionary biology, at the spirit-core of their being they are identical. The dogs and wolves and other wild canids whom I have raised since soon after birth and shared my life with have the same deep heart’s essence that I saw in their eyes and which they expressed in their gestures and demeanor toward me: trust, tenderness, empathy, playfulness and full awareness (not simply conditioned obedience) of social boundaries and which behaviors were acceptable or not. I call this ‘canid conscience’, which in many respects is far better developed than the conscience of many of our own kind (a far less gentle species indeed, considering our killer ape origins and propensity for war).
The good dog, like the tame wolf, can see and respond to our own deep heart’s core of love and devotion because it is from this center of our own being that we embrace and celebrate theirs. That is what Franz Kafka in his essay “Investigation of a Dog” meant, I believe, when he wrote: “All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all awareness, is contained in the dog.” And this is why the ancient Egyptians believed that the dog was our guide in the afterlife because the dog was such a good guide and loyal companion in real life. Embodying finer qualities of feeling and sensibility than the relatively irresponsible and emotionally challenged average human, we should all look up to our dogs in awe and gratitude. We should also help others of our own kind feel and know that in the deep heart’s core of all good dogs and wild wolves lies the source of an abiding affection that we, in moments of grace and communion, may share.
Since this core is evident as much in a tame wolf as in a toy poodle, it is clear that neither domestication nor wildness has altered their true natures. In the heart of every dog is the spirit of the wolf that embodies the finer qualities of human nature that we call love and devotion.
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